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Laser Beams Keep Bird Flu Out of Poultry Farms

Wild birds that are potential carriers were successfully deterred from approaching a poultry farm during the study.

Wild waterfowl are potential carriers of bird, or avian, flu, and every poultry farmer's nightmare, especially in the winter months.

So a team of researchers from Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands decided to see if lasers could deter wild birds from these farms, especially if they're free-range, and keep bird flu at bay.

Lasers are already used at airports and landfills to keep wild birds away, so there's no reason why they wouldn't work or be used at poultry farms.

The team's laser method

Wild geese and ducks are the most "dangerous" culprits for spreading avian flu through their droppings, especially in a free-range farm where poultry can directly ingest feces by eating or drinking it from puddles. 

The team installed a 19-foot (six-meter) mast in the free-range area directly linked to a barn of a poultry farm that had previously suffered bouts of bird flu in its poultry. Eight wide-angle cameras were placed on high poles around the study area to catch all activity. 

When the chickens went into the barn at night, between 5 pm and 10 am, the laser beams were switched on inside, and during the day between 10 am and 5 pm, the outside free-range area was laser-beamed. The team recorded these areas for one month without the lasers, and then for one month with the lasers.

Their findings were crystal clear.

Without the lasers, wild birds visited the area between sunset and sunrise every day, swimming in puddles, walking around the free-range pastures. These same waters and pastures were visited by the chickens, as was captured by the team's cameras. 

In contrast, during the month when the laser beams were on no wild ducks visited the site. There was, in fact, a 99.7 percent prevention rate, as recorded by the scientists. And there were almost no other wild birds recorded either, with a 96 percent prevention rate recorded. 

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The team's study shows how laser beams could be used by poultry farmers, especially free-range ones, during the high-risk winter months. 

It has to be pointed out, however, that it still remains a mystery how the avian flu virus infects poultry that only lives in barns.

But at this stage, it's still good news to know that there's the option of using laser beams to keep wild, and potentially bird flu-infected, birds away from precious poultry farms and their surrounding land. 

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