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The recent avian flu surge is affecting poultry farmers across the U.S.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

An avian flu outbreak that started in 2022 is still spreading.

MAURICE PITESKY: This outbreak is larger geographically. It's on six continents at this point.

FADEL: Dr. Maurice Pitesky is an associate professor at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. He says the current surge in cases is decimating poultry farms across the country.

PITESKY: It's highly pathogenic, so unfortunately one of the more common symptoms is just mortality or death.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

He says the virus spreads primarily through waterfowl, like ducks and geese. These migratory birds transmit flu to domestic chickens, and just one infected chicken can put an entire flock at risk.

SYLVIA LEMBURSKI: They've killed thousands and thousands of birds because of avian flu.

FADEL: That's Sylvia Lemburski (ph), who runs Little Zhabba Ranch (ph) in California's San Fernando Valley. She usually used about 30 birds for both egg and meat processing.

INSKEEP: Infected poultry farmers are forced to kill the whole flock, so Lemburski is taking extra precautions.

LEMBURSKI: I, at this point, run a closed flock. Nobody comes in. Nobody goes out. And I think they get a well-rounded diet. It helps them to fight off any nasties, including avian flu.

INSKEEP: Experts like Pitesky are working on long-term solutions.

PITESKY: We need to think holistically about where we grow our poultry and where we have habitat for waterfowl and that spatial interface between the two.

FADEL: With the current surge, scientists are seeing the flu affecting even more species, like marine mammals. But they also say the risk of human infection is pretty low. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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