It’s a milder year, but some areas showing uptick in bird flu cases

GAINESVILLE, Ga. — For highly pathogenic avian influenza, the U.S. poultry industry has had a calmer year since the large-scale outbreaks seen in 2022, but that trend is changing somewhat with some states seeing an increase in cases.

On Nov. 7, the USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service reported that confirmed detections for 2022-2023 are at 894 confirmed flocks, with 50 confirmed in the past 30 days, which have affected locations in 47 states. This comes to approximately 356 cases in commercial flocks, 538 backyard flocks and totaling about 61.26 million birds.

One of the most recent is an outbreak on a commercial table egg layer flock in Wright County, Minnesota, which affected 940,000 birds, which will be killed to help control the spread of the disease.

An Associated Press report notes that, “the toll overall has been much lower in 2023 than in 2022 as the number of bases found in wild birds plummeted and farmers redoubled their efforts to prevent any contact between their birds and the ducks and geese migrating past their farms. Even after 940,000 chickens on the Minnesota farm are slaughtered, there will only have been about 3.4 million birds killed this year.”

The Associated Press report adds that Minnesota has lost more than 5.5 million birds since this most recent number of HPAI outbreaks. However, Iowa has been the impacted the most with a total of more than 16 million birds, including one case of 5 million egg-layers.

Arkansas also had a recent incident on Oct. 31 affecting 31,600 pullets on a commercial broiler breeder location in Madison County.

Arkansas State Veterinarian John Nilz said, “The farm is under quarantine to stop the spread of avian influenza to other flocks in the state.”

Officials continue to stress that these outbreaks pose no threat to public health, as well as poultry meat and egg products remain safe to eat.

“We have taken immediate action to contain this disease and will continue to work with poultry growers, the industry, and our laboratory partners to protect against its spread,” Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward said. “Arkansas poultry is safe to eat and consumers can be confident in the safety of their food.”

The Arkansas Department of Agriculture also added that under the provisions of the Poultry Disease and Flock Condemnation Rule, in an affected and quarantined area it is prohibited to: exhibit poultry or domestic waterfowl; move poultry or domestic waterfowl; as well as no selling, trading, bartering or giving away of poultry or domestic waterfowl at such events as flea markets, auctions, fairs or other such events.

The affected area is approximately 25 miles surrounding the confirmed HPAI flock.

Some of the other commercially affected flocks, reported by APHIS include: a broiler hatchery, Hamilton County, Iowa, 15,000 birds (Nov. 7); a broiler breeder, Benton County, Mo., 16.600 birds (Nov. 3); turkey breeder hens, Mcpherson County, S.D., 26,800 birds (Nov. 3); broiler breeder pullets, Marshall County, Ala., 47,900 birds (Nov. 2); and turkey meat birds, Buena Vista County, Iowa, 30,000 birds (Nov. 1).

For wild birds and waterfowl detections, APHIS notes that among the most recent cases and types found with HPAI, include: Iowa, Warren County, an American green-winged teal (Oct. 27); N.D., Burleigh County, a mallard and an American green-winged teal (Oct. 27); Florida, Orange County, a bald eagle (Oct. 27); Colorado, Larimer County, a great horned owl (Oct. 27); Oregon, Jackson County, a goose (unidentified) (Oct. 27); Georgia, Harris County, a Muscovy duck and black vulture (Oct. 27); Utah, Cache County, a swan (unidentified) (Oct. 27); Colorado, Larimer County, a great horned owl (Oct. 27); Minnesota, Dakota County, two peregrine falcons (Oct. 27); and Texas, Bexar County, a peregrine falcon (Oct. 27).

APHIS notes that, “wild birds can be infected with HPAI and show no signs of illness. They can carry the disease to new areas when migrating, potentially exposing domestic poultry to the virus. APHIS’ wild bird surveillance program provides an early warning system for the introduction and distribution of avian influenza viruses of concern in the United States, allowing APHIS and the poultry industry to take timely and rapid action to reduce the risk of spread to our poultry industry and other populations of concern.”

National and state agricultural officials continue to stress that a vital means to keep poultry flocks healthy is to maintain strict biosecurity protocols.

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