North Carolina is bracing for the possibility of a bird flu outbreak. State agriculture officials are holding a series of meetings to educate backyard poultry farmers about the virus.

The first of five regional meetings kicked off in Greensboro Tuesday.  Dozens of backyard poultry owners came out to learn more about the avian flu and how they can protect their flocks. 

Michele Morris is a veterinarian in Graham and also owns several chickens.

“When the migration of birds comes from these Northern areas like Minnesota and Iowa, where the virus has been a huge problem, it's going to be spread into our state,” says Morris.

And that could have a major economic impact. Poultry is North Carolina's largest agricultural industry, worth more than $34 billion a year.

“We are taking precautions, but I'm worried about the impact on my egg hatching farm if 40,000 of my birds would get sick,” says Dan Kerns of McLeansville.

Experts say this bird flu isn't a threat to humans.  But there's no cure for the virus and once it hits a group of birds it spreads quickly.

Dan Campeau, with Cooperative Extension in Chatham County, says they learned a lot about preventing a similar outbreak.

“You should always change your footgear before you go working your birds, and don't wear the same thing you wore to the feed store and then go out and work the flocks with,” says Campeau. “Also, have a foot bath in front of your pins and do not let a lot a lot of visitors come in where your birds are being kept.”

More than 50-million birds have been euthanized in the Midwest since December. North Carolina response teams from the state agriculture department traveled to these states to help with the process.

Campeau says if North Carolina gets hit with the avian flu, it may be better off than other states, because the virus doesn't last as long in warmer temperatures.

He says the state is also conducting mock disaster training exercises with local law enforcement and emergency management agencies. 

The meetings with poultry owners will run through September 11.

*Follow Keri Brown on Twitter @kerib_news.

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