Utah officials are warning hunters and owners of backyard poultry flocks to be wary of a highly-pathogenic strain of avian influenza virus that could appear in the state.
Though currently no affected birds have been reported, Utah is on the migratory path of affected animals, which have been found in Oregon, California and Washington.
Dr. Warren Hess, a veterinarian for the state, said the virus is carried by water fowl, but the effects are felt by domesticated birds.
“That's why it can move so quickly, because you've got these flyways that these birds move along and they can go quite great distances in just a couple of days," Hess said.
Officials emphasize humans are not affected by this particular strain, though the illness can prove fatal to birds.
“There isn't a lot of time from the time you first notice a bird not feeling well to when it's dead," Hess said. "It transitions really quickly, within a couple of hours."
However, Hess said owners can maintain their birds’ health by keeping their flocks away from water areas and the fowl in them. He also advises the public to use gloves and safe disposal techniques when handling dead birds.
The USDA has stated all poultry, poultry products and wild birds are safe to eat as long as they have been handled properly and cooked to a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.