The nation’s worst bird flu outbreak in years has come home to roost on the East End, where several flocks have been affected, reportedly shutting down an 82-year-old Sag Harbor game farm.
New York State and federal officials first reported in February that a small, non-commercial backyard flock of eight birds tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). Then last month, state Department of Agriculture officials euthanized thousands of pheasants and ducks at Spring Farm, prompting its owner to shut its doors, according to local news reports. The two East End outbreaks are among four in Suffolk County, although it was not immediately clear what communities the other two were in.
“Our communicable disease staff is in contact with any humans who may have been exposed to give them information and monitor if they have any respiratory symptoms,” the Suffolk Department of Health said in a statement.
Nearly 23 million chickens and turkeys have already been killed in 24 states to limit the spread of the virus. The outbreak is the biggest since 2015, when producers had to kill more than 50 million birds.
Officials emphasize that bird flu doesn’t jeopardize the safety of meat or eggs or represent a significant risk to human health. No infected birds are allowed into the food supply, and properly cooking poultry and eggs kills bacteria and viruses. No human cases have been found in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Avian influenza outbreaks can spread quickly,” State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said. “We will continue to do all we can at the Department to safeguard the state’s flocks and encourage everyone who keeps poultry to be vigilant about minimizing their birds’ exposure to the virus and to wild bird populations. Our poultry industry is a significant part of the state’s agricultural industry and these biosecurity steps are our best line of defense against the disease.”
-With Associated Press