“Food supply is safe:” State of emergency declared in Jefferson County over avian flu

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JEFFERSON COUNTY (WITI) -- Jefferson County has declared a state of emergency over the avian flu outbreak. Two of six cases of bird flu in Wisconsin have been documented in Jefferson County.

"I just want to assure that the food supply is safe and the chickens are tested," said Gail Scott, Jefferson County Health Officer.

Scott says this strain of the avian flu has not affected humans. But because of the remote possibility the virus could mutate, the county is monitoring workers who have been exposed to sick or dead chickens.

"Because they will be our first people to, if it does mutate and it does affect humans, they will probably be the first people to get infected," said Scott.

The first affected farm was reported on April 10th -- it has about 180,000 chickens. The second farm was reported on Wednesday -- officials say it has about one million chickens. Jefferson County has since declared a state of emergency. County Administrator Ben Wehmeier says that is mainly so the government has more flexibility should the bird flu spread to other farms.

"On the spot purchases if we need to, to a higher dollar limit without having to go back to a finance committee, as an example," said Wehmeier.

There are a total of six confirmed or suspected cases across Wisconsin -- affecting Jefferson, Juneau, Barron and Chippewa Counties. Wehmeier says Jefferson County is bracing for new cases.

"Biggest issue right now is obviously monitoring to see if it does go to another farm and what implications that would have," said Wehmeier.

Health officials say even if the virus does spread, the public should not worry about the safety of their poultry.

"People should not hesitate to eat eggs or chicken; just make sure to follow the safety rules of cooking. But there is no concern," said Scott.

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