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STATE WIDE–More than 400,000 chickens were killed in Indiana in 2016 because of the bird flu. On “Bird Health Awareness Week”, the United States Dept. of Agriculture, says you’re affected by bird diseases and they can be prevented.

“I was there in Indiana when that happened and that was heartbreaking to see not only the suffering to the birds in those flocks, but also the people who care for them and the local economy,” said Dr. Julie Gauthier, the assistant director for Poultry Health at the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

“These dangerous and highly contagious poultry diseases like avian influenza can destroy flocks, can cause job losses and economic damage to a community and can even affect international trade,” she said.

Gauthier said everyone who keeps poultry, whether it’s a large flock of laying hens or a few chickens in your back yard in the city, has a responsibility bto prevent the spread of those diseases.

“Washing your hands every time after you handle your poultry. It could include dedicating a pair of boots to your poultry area that you only use in that place and nowhere else,” she said.

Gauthier called those examples “good biosecurity”.

“At the USDA we’re very concerned about the spread of avian influenza. We’re free of that disease and we want to remain that way,” she said. “There are common disease that biosecurity can help prevent, like Marek’s Disease virus, which are troubling for all sizes of flocks.”

She said the biosecurity steps that the USDA is talking about now were developed as a result of the outbreak of bird flu in 2015, and 2016, which she described as the largest animal health incident in U.S. history.

The USDA is holding a webinar on Facebook Thursday. Gauthier said you can register by searching for “Defend the Flock”.