MOORLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The state has found avian influenza at a commercial turkey farm in eastern Muskegon County, forcing the farm to kill its stock in an effort to prevent the virus from spreading.
While the state did not release the name of the farm, an employee at Sietsema Farms confirmed to News 8 it one of its facilities is involved.
This is the first confirmed case of bird flu at a commercial poultry operation in Michigan, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development said.
To protect other flocks, the state said the premises is under quarantine. Jennifer Holton with MDARD told News 8 that 35,000 turkeys at the facility were “euthanized” to prevent the spread.
MDARD first detected the strain of bird flu in the state in a backyard flock back in February.
“We’ve had some instances of some backyard flock owners in Michigan earlier this spring where their flocks were found to be infected with (highly pathogenic) avian influenza and typically in those instances, as well, it’s due to a contact with a wild bird that typically brings this disease in,” Ernie Birchmeier with the Michigan Farm Bureau said. “Unfortunately, we are in the northern region of the migratory flyway or pathway and birds migrate from the south to the north this time of year and with it sometimes come diseases.”
MDARD noted the public health risk remains low and no birds or bird products infected with bird flu will enter the commercial food chain.
Birchmeier added that the loss of the 35,000 birds will likely have little to no impact on turkey supply in the state.
“We do produce about 5.3 million turkeys annually in the state of Michigan. We also have a vibrant egg production here in Michigan and a chicken broiler industry so this should have minimal impact,” Birchmeier said.
Bird flu can cause flu-like symptoms in poultry like lack of energy, appetite and coordination. It can also cause swelling, coughing and reduced egg production. It is very contagious among birds and can be spread through contact with infected poultry, equipment and on the clothing and shoes of caretakers. Birchmeier said that’s why other poultry owners in the area will need to be cautious.
“Our poultry farmers in Michigan do an outstanding job of implementing bio security measures on their operations to keep the disease out because it’s so devastating,” Birchmeier said. “Certainly this will increase awareness that our farmers have in the West Michigan community. West Michigan is home to a large majority of poultry production in the state of Michigan.”
News 8 reached out for an interview with Sietsema but did not receive a call back before close of business Wednesday.
Birchmeier says if you notice an influx of deceased birds or poultry in your area, it could be a sign of an avian influenza outbreak. He says you should contact MDARD immediately at 800.292.3939 or after-hours at 517.373.0440.
More information about how to protect flocks through biosecurity measures can be found on the USDA’s website.
—News 8’s Michael Oszust and Rachel Van Gilder contributed to this report.