RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Swelling of the head, difficulty breathing, diarrhea… and decreased egg production.

Those are the signs the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) urges farmers to watch out for in their flocks after an outbreak of avian influenza among wild waterfowl in the Carolinas.

“All poultry owners should take practical biosecurity measures to protect their birds from Avian Influenza,” said Dr. Charlie Broaddus, State Veterinarian with VDACS. “Biosecurity measures include preventing exposure of poultry to areas where wild birds are present, and being vigilant about not bringing infectious materials from wild birds into contact with poultry.”

VDACS said the risk posed to humans was low, as there has never been a case of this strain reported among humans in the United States. However, this strain has not been detected in birds in the U.S. since 2016, so they advise farmers and hunters to take precautions.

They warn that birds may not show obvious signs of sickness, so hunters should wear gloves while dressing birds, and do so in the open air. In addition, all poultry and eggs should reach an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees before they’re eaten.

More guidance on protective measures can be found online.

In addition to practicing biosecurity, bird owners are asked to prevent contact between their birds and wild birds, as well as report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to the State Veterinarian’s Office at 804-692-0601 or at vastatevet@vdacs.virginia.gov or through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s toll-free number, 866-536-7593.