PITT COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) - The state is imposing new suspensions for the poultry industry as High Path Avian Influenza infections are on the rise.
Tuesday, North Carolina’s state veterinarian, Dr. Michael Martin, put a pause on all poultry shows and mass public sales.
More than 350,000 birds have been euthanized this week in the state, but the total number of birds affected is still unknown as with each new positive site, the state broadens its testing parameters.
Martin is tightening the reigns on bird gatherings, all in an attempt to beat the clock on migration patterns of infected wild birds out of the state and to keep cross-contamination as subdued as possible.
Feed store owners now wonder what this might mean for their industry.
“If there was a ban on commercial sales, that’s going to impact us pretty heavily,” said Greg Cannon, the owner of a hardware and feed store in Farmville.
Cannon sold the last chick of his most recent order, but with high path bird flu ripping through the country he wonders if it is safe to order more.
“We certainly have been concerned about it, but we’ve sold some chicks this year,” said Cannon. “We usually sell about 600 chicks a year out of the store.”
Seven commercial farming operations across Johnston and Wayne Counties euthanized more than 90,000 turkeys and more than 280,000 chickens in the past week.
“What we’re seeing with the spread of this virus in our commercial birds and also what we’re seeing nationally, shows that there’s a lot that we still have not learned about how this virus actually sheds,” said Martin.
His office most recently placed a suspension on all poultry shows and live public sales of birds but relief came for Cannon and other feed store owners.
“This is not for, like say pet stores and that type of thing, but we’re talking about open sales, auctions, swaps, poultry shows,” explained Martin, “Those types of things, where we have a large group of people that are coming together with maybe a mixed group of birds.”
Cannon acts diligently to keep his product safe from infection saying, “I want to make sure when we order our [hatchlings] that we get them immunized before they come here.”
All the while, he tries to keep the local industries afloat through the threat.
“I do have some farmers that have chicken houses and they are concerned about it,” continued Cannon. “They obviously don’t handle my chickens and don’t get around my chickens when they are here.”
Biosecurity is essential to containing bird flu.
Humans are safe from contracting the virus, but they can easily transmit infection if say they handle a sick bird and then touch other birds without washing up first.
The best thing for commercial and backyard flock owners to do is to limit their flock’s contact with other birds as much as possible.
At one time that excluded common backyard songbirds, but now the state says to err on the side of caution and quarantine your flocks whenever you can.
Infected birds do not pose a threat to the food supply, but Martin says no contaminated flocks will make it to processing centers because the risk of further infecting more flocks is too high.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Pregame coverage of the NCAA Basketball Championship is underway as bars and restaurants across the East prepare for a busy night of UNC vs. Kansas action.
Monday night’s game is the finale of the weekend for Uptown Greenville spots. Doggie Jams and the Final Four match-up kept bartenders and servers on their feet.
“It’s a great game. We’re supporting local restaurants,” said Terence Green, a self-proclaimed UNC super-fan. “Everybody, we have a good time. I’m a little nervous, but guess what, I wore my jersey. We’re gonna see how it works out.”
Yet, that won’t stop the televisions from staying on and the doors staying open late once the UNC Tar Heels and Kansas Jayhawks tip-off at 9:20 ET.
“We’re doing really well actually. This was a really good weekend for us,” said Blackened Kraken bartender Julianne Hughes. “All of the events brought a lot of people in, a lot of families and college students, so we are very stocked behind the bar.”
Calling in more staff to have on hand than they typically would on a Monday night, Hughes’ team is ready for a full house and a long line of bar tickets to fulfill.
“I’m a bartenders and like we get big crowds at my job, but this is a huge crowd right now,” said New Bern resident Sidney Legette ”We’ve got a lot of UNC fans.”
Hughes will be mixing up a special menu item just for tonight’s match, a Tar Heel shot.
“A Tar Heel shot is also known as a Blue Kamikaze. It’s equal parts vodka, blue curacao, and lime juice,” said Hughes, “and it’s a light blue color.”
For the 12th time, the Tar Heels will battle the Jayhawks for the championship title. UNC is hoping to continue its winning streak for a seventh overall win.
“Everything has been prepped either this morning or last night. So, we are ready for as many people as possible to come in,” added Hughes.
Good food, good drinks, and good times aren’t the only things expected out of the East for the game. Former ECU basketball coach Jeff Lebo and former Kinston High Viking Dontrez Stylez will represent the Tar Heels in the Big Easy.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - It is flu season for birds and the current strain of High Path Avian Influenza, or Bird Flu, caused the euthanization of 32,100 turkeys in Johnston County.
WITN first spoke with North Carolina’s state veterinarian in February about the outbreak in wild waterfowl. Now that the disease spread into commercial and backyard flocks, we checked back in.
“If we can just at least get to the other side of the season then hopefully, we’ll be in a better place,” said state veterinarian Dr. Michael Martin.
Martin says the good news is, the illness is not a threat to people or food safety. He said, “We had been lucky so far. We knew that this virus was in our wild waterfowl. We have been on heightened alert in North Carolina since the middle of January.”
The state is now testing flocks within 6.2 miles of the infected farm, but backyard flock owners should be taking precautions as well.
“Birds having contact or association with wild waterfowl is always considered a high risk factor. Beyond that, there’s maybe more things that you can kind of speculate on or guess on,” said Martin. “One of the things that concerns me personally is are there other wild bird species that are carrying this disease?”
Dr. Martin is talking about songbirds. They were previously written off to be safe from the flu, but now researchers aren’t so sure.
The best practice, he says, is to strictly follow biosecurity measures even in your own backyard.
“To the backyard, independent flock owners, if you can keep your birds enclosed in a coop or at least pent up in and it’s not going to create a welfare problem with those birds, we still highly encourage you to do that,” advised Martin. “We know this virus existed in our wild bird populations and so if you can protect them without creating a welfare problem, you definitely should do that. And then again, that biosecurity: clean clothes, clean shoes, clean hands, is really going to be critical.”
Treat the flu like wet paint, he explains, If you’ve come in contact with other birds, don’t touch anything until you’ve washed up.
The Johnston County farm now joins 48 other commercial farms in 12 states where the virus has been found. Also, 32 backyard flocks in 13 states have tested positive, all this year.
Although the low risk to people can ease some minds, the high mortality and transmissibility of this virus should always be treated with caution.
Some of the early warning signs of the flu in flocks include reduced energy, irregular egg production, and swelling or purple discoloration.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Dozens of Eastern Carolina breweries pitched a tent and iced down a few kegs to introduce themselves to people in Greenville.
Dickinson Avenue After Dark brought in hundreds of friends and families to sample out the food and drinks of the East.
Before the Sun went down in Greenville, brewers prepared their booths in anticipation for thirsty customers.
“It’s just really high quality, Eastern North Carolina beer, and I think everybody’s excited to try it,” said Benjamin Self, a brewer at Local Oak Brewery.
Each festival goer brought their own game plan to tackle this season’s festival.
“We got a few sample tickets,” said Dan Glazewski. “I think we’re going to walk around and sample everything and then get a full one at the end.”
It is just as fun for those on the other side of the tap.
“And as a brewer, that’s why I like coming to events like this,” said Self. “We tend to attract a lot of beer geeks. These are people that want to talk about the beers they love so this is the perfect place to engage with these folks.”
After trying out some local brews, food trucks are to the rescue. All of the East’s household names lined the road to serve hot dogs, tacos, pizza, barbeque, ice cream, and more.
“I passed Anita’s, and I pass it every day on my way home from work, so I’m definitely going to try that one,” said Glazewski. It’s a chance for drinkers to branch out.
“People are always looking for a new place to come out for afternoons or evenings,” said Self, “and brewery taprooms are a big part of that.”
The local-vendor-exclusive experience allows for changing up the routine and rotating the flavors, each one brewed with intension.
“Because we’re small and local, we always have new things to try on tap. So, that’s what people are going to be looking for tonight. What have you got that’s new? Show me something new,” said Self.
Dickinson Avenue After Dark was inspired by a trip to New Orleans where organizers stumbled upon a beer and art festival and took the concept back home with them to the East.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - The U.S. Labor Department said Thursday that consumer prices jumped 7.5% last month compared with a year earlier, affecting all goods and services.
Families are struggling with rising costs from diapers to snacks, and are making sacrifices to stay on budget.
“You definitely have to stretch a buck farther than you’ve expected,” James Trimble, a Pitt County father of two said.
From December 2020 to December 2021, the consumer price index rose for meat and eggs in the double digits, and it’s forecasted to rise even higher this year.
As Trimble shops for his family, he notices a rise in “meat, the pampers, clothes, everything. You have to budget stuff and you have to be on top of it.”
The inflation rate increase seen across the countries is the highest price jump seen in four decades.
Some parents are having to shift their spending to make ends meet.
“Snacks and stuff you can hold out on, maybe get a lower brand of this snack and stretch the buck,” Trimble said, “but you definitely have to have Pampers, wipes, and clothes.”
Trimble’s family saves money where they can by utilizing free resources like the playground at Town Common in Greenville, but more financial challenges loom on the horizon.
“I don’t think any family, no matter how well-off they are, could support one child educationally right now,” Lauren Freeman, a childcare provider and student said.
At the end of the day, Trimble says of his kids, “We’ll make sure they are taken care of first.”
Meanwhile, some economists see a chance to regulate the surge.
“At this point, I am cautiously optimistic that we will get this under control like we did in the past,” said Dr. Haiyong Liu, East Carolina University Economics Department chair said.
Eyes turn now to the federal government, which may decide to raise the key rate in March by one-half of a percentage point. Typically, it is a quarter-point hike.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - As the snow and ice melted in Eastern Carolina on Sunday, the eateries and shops that closed a day before due to weather reopened.
“Friday night we were actually open and when the weather got bad, we decided to close, just because we didn’t know how the roads were actually going to be,” said Victoria Jenkins, a manager at Tiebreakers in Greenville. “It was better to be safe than sorry to make sure that the staff was safe and could actually travel.”
Jenkins says managers followed forecasts closely, making safety calls as necessary.
With the roads clearer than before, the sports bar was full of mostly families and large groups, including the Hines family, who came in for an opportunity to get out.
“We’ve been home for two days,” said Kimberly Hines. “Yesterday, we stayed home and took extra caution and didn’t go out on the roads.”
On Saturday, the NFL Conference playoff games would have brought in big crowds.
“It kind of hurt us because we probably would have been really busy,” said Jenkins. “But with today, being back open again, we’ve been really busy since we opened.”
Hines’s son, Colton, was looking forward to seeing Los Angeles Rams take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Tiebreakers management said they have a game plan, working to make back the revenue lost over the weekend from the weather.
“If we get snow, I think we’ll always be open, but when there’s ice involved, that’s when it gets a little riskier,” said Jenkins.
And as conditions improve, business is expected to go back to normal.
ONSLOW COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) - Snorts and squawks were the sounds that marked a new beginning for the Possumwood Acres Wildlife Sanctuary in Onslow County as they officially reopened their gates on Sunday.
“We’re trying to let people who love animals have a place to express that love and be able to do things for them,” said sanctuary director Toni O’Neil. “Or just be able to support them financially knowing that there’s a place that’s going to continue to be here forever.”
The sanctuary faced many challenges in the past year, including damage from a hurricane and losing fundraising and volunteer opportunities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Newly renovated, O’Neil said they have the opportunity to teach the community about wildlife in North Carolina while also caring for those injured and in need of rehabilitation.
“We get a lot of babies and that people think they can raise themselves or birds of prey,” said volunteer Andrew Baughman. “They think they can keep his pets, but unfortunately, that isn’t best for the animal. They need care to be able to be released back into the wild.”
Care that Baughman is well-versed in, such as with possums.
“You can’t really release a possum with over half of its tail missing,” said Baughman. “They don’t use it to hang like you see in the movies. They do use it for balance and collecting nesting materials.”
Several of the sanctuary’s tenants are educational ambassadors, including a rabbit named Lorette, who is used to educate the public about the dangers of bunny breeding.
“People do breed a lot of rabbits and a lot of domestic animals in general. Domestic rabbits aren’t able to survive in the wild,” said Baughman. “They’re meant to be pets. The big thing with our education ambassadors is to help educate the public on my North Carolina’s wild life is so important to help conserve.”
At 16-years-old, Baughman takes on the educational responsibility fearlessly.
“Getting to know your affecting nature in such a positive way, combating the negative effects of people, getting to release them back into the wild— it’s very fulfilling. If the animals were not here we wouldn’t be here, so it’s pretty important to me to be able to do that as well,” he said.
The fall fundraiser is the sanctuary’s largest source of community income. More than $4,500 of prizes were raffled off to generate funds for continued improvements for the animals.
Guided tours are available daily at the sanctuary located at 119 Doe Dr. Hubert, NC 28539. More information on how to visit or support Possumwood Acres can be found here.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - As the holiday shopping season continued on Saturday, the streets of Uptown Greenville were busy with those supporting local businesses.
“Whenever we can, that’s what we like to do,” Greenville residents Scott and Bree Wisseman said. “Since we live here in Greenville, we want to support Uptown and all the local shops here.”
The City of Greenville took an extra step to support small businesses by providing a free ride on the Emerald Express Trolley on the shopping route.
“The less time you have to spend in your car when you’re in Uptown, the better,” Scott said. “To just be able to park and end walk to hop on the trolley to go anywhere you want to go in town is awesome.”
Riders were given gift cards to shop at stores such as the Emerge Gallery, where it was busy.
“We’ve have had more folks in the first two hours that we’ve been open than we’ve had in quite a while,” exhibits coordinator Sarah Lazure said. “So, it’s been great!”
At the Votre Boutique, the store had a makeover at just the right time.
“We actually just moved everything around this morning,” Maggie Knuth said. “So we just want everyone to come in and get a fresh look at all of our new stuff. We get new arrivals every day, all week long. We try to keep everything on the mannequins current and in the windows to draw shoppers back in here.”
Business owners said how local support helps more than just their business.
“Well, it means we can support our local artists,” Lazure said. “They’re also depending on this, and where the big box chains have backups and shortages, all of our artists are here. They can provide the artwork. It’s a direct result. They get that money back in their pocket and it helps them out with the holiday and the new year as well.”
WINTERVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - As local businesses compete against national chain stores this Thanksgiving and Black Friday, a business in Winterville hoped to tackle issues, such as the supply-chain crisis, by fully stocking their shelves.
“When it’s just coming from down the road it’s a lot easier than being shipped from far away,” said Justin Lawrence, whose parents own The Village Market on Winterville Parkway. “It’s straight to the source, you get to support your neighbors, and be a part of the community.”
The Lawrence family said supporting neighbors is something they prioritize when running a business, with all of their items sourced from North Carolina.
“It’s not uncommon for us to have business owners bring their products right in here to us,” said Sarah Lawrence after stocking the shelves with fresh peanut brittle from Jamesville. “It’s basically from the business directly to the store. So, we’re not facing those supply shortages that a big box store may face.”
Customers browsed chocolate covered nuts from Goldsboro, barbeque sauce from the Blue Ridge Mountains, and handmade soap from Winterville on Friday.
Elizabeth Coghill came to The Village Market as a repeat customer. She wanted a holiday gift for her neighbors today.
“You can buy so much online now,” said Coghill. “This is something you can’t buy online.”
The pandemic has changed the priorities of some Eastern Carolina shoppers on Black Friday.
“We used to go out really early in the morning, like 6am,” said Coghill. “It’s just no fun when you’re fighting crowds.”
The Lawrence family opened the doors of the village market in March 2021. After seeing the pandemic’s effect on area vendors, Justin Lawrence said he decided now was the time to make a change.
“I saw a lot of the small businesses and local shops didn’t have the avenues to get their products out there and be seen as much as they were before,” he said. “So, that was the spur that we needed to make the dream come true.”
The Village Market will host a free-to-enter vendor market each Saturday this holiday season, featuring food trucks, music, Christmas trees, and local suppliers of crafts, meat, treats, and more.
The Saturday event will begin Nov. 27 at 9 a.m.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Supply chain shortages are affecting industries nationwide, and that includes food banks that work to help those in need.
Food banks in the east have seen an 11 percent since the start of the pandemic and that need is expected to grow during the holidays.
Thursday, volunteers packaged sweet potatoes at the Greenville branch of the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. While this item was plentiful, others are running low or completely gone.
“We have had a real drop in our food drives and food donations that normally come from the public so the food bank is now in a position where we are going to have to purchase more food,” said branch director George Young.
As the US Labor Department reported this month, the Consumer Price Index has risen 6.2 percent, the most since December 1990.
Food banks rely on many different avenues for their goods: food drives, grocery chains, farmers, and food manufactures. “But right now, the food is not getting turned over as quickly because it’s taking so long to get the food to our distribution points and then back out to our food pantries,” said Young.
Dr. Jon Kirchoff of ECU’s School of Business is an expert in supply chain management.
“Suddenly, as consumers and customers are trying to get all of the things that we like to buy, they’re finding themselves in a pinch,” he said.
It’s a pinch that is squeezing the holiday season, especially for those who use community donated resources.
“There’s multiple factors challenging us presently,” said Young. “When the consumers are having the same issue, they ask themselves, ‘Am I going to provide for my family or am I going to donate some food to the food bank?’”
With perishable goods, it is hard to expect companies to have the full stock after the past year of uncertainty.
“It’s not like companies can stock up a lot on perishable products in anticipation of something that’s going to happen,” said Kirchoff. “They can stock up on canned goods, dried goods, and things like that which last longer, but even those have a shelf life.”
Some supply chain experts estimate that the scales of supply and demand will even themselves out in 2023, but Dr. Kirchoff is more optimistic that things can return to normal at the start of 2022.
Regardless of the prediction, this year’s holiday season will be upset by supply chain woes.
Consumers are urged to buy early, if they can, consider alternatives for their specific favorite items, and to lend a hand to the less fortunate as they are able to.