Poultry producers and backyard flock owners are being put on alert by the state Department of Agriculture about the presence of avian influenza in Missouri. The highly pathogenic influenza, a type-A virus commonly known as “bird flu,” is transmitted from bird-to-bird through fecal droppings, saliva and nasal discharges. According to Gene Schmitz, a livestock field specialist for University Extension, the bird flu is a serious disease which requires rapid response because it is highly contagious and often fatal to chickens. So far, the virus has been identified in Stoddard, Bates, Jasper and Lawrence counties. The release also says, despite the virus being deadly to poultry, chicken and other poultry products are still safe to eat if properly handled and cooked. More information for producers about the bird flu is available on the Department of Agriculture’s website.