Polis declares bird flu emergency after 1 million animals infected

Colorado is under a disaster declaration again as another large facility’s poultry flock has to be culled because of a virulent flu strain affecting birds.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza can infect both wild birds and domesticated poultry. Since it kills about 90% of infected birds, the U.S. Department of Agriculture sends teams into affected facilities to destroy all the poultry there, so any birds that might have survived can’t carry the virus with them and decimate other flocks.

One person in Colorado tested positive in April, though public health officials thought that person might have just carried the virus in his nose without a true infection.

Gov. Jared Polis had previously declared the situation a disaster in April, after the virus hit a Montrose County facility with 58,000 birds and a Weld County operation with 1.4 million birds and 7 million eggs. At the time, the state set aside $1 million for the response. The declaration expired in late July, following a lull in new cases.

The virus struck again on Sept. 20, hitting a facility with 1.1 million birds in Weld County. Polis issued another executive order declaring a disaster on Thursday. The declaration lasts for one month.

The order also gave state agencies another six months to use the remainder of the $1 million before it returns to the state’s disaster fund. It originally was only set aside through late November.

More than 46 million turkeys and other domestic birds had been affected in 40 states as of Thursday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus also has been found in 2,650 birds in 46 states — possibly an undercount, given that people don’t always report coming across a dead bird.

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