5.3 million laying hens to be destroyed as bird flu reported at fourth Iowa facility

Donnelle Eller
Des Moines Register

Bird flu has been detected in a Buena Vista County egg-laying facility with 5.3 million hens, the second outbreak in the northwest Iowa county this month, the Iowa Department of Agriculture said Friday.

It's the state's fourth outbreak of the deadly virus since March 1.

The hens are being destroyed, said Chloe Carson, an Iowa Department of Agriculture spokeswoman. Altogether, roughly 6.3 million birds have been killed in Iowa to stop the spread of the highly contagious disease.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza was first detected almost 30 years ago in China. A 2015 outbreak led to the destruction of 32.7 million laying hens, turkeys and other birds in Iowa. That was about two-thirds of the 50.5 million that were destroyed nationally in what is considered the worst foreign animal disease outbreak on record.

Buena Vista County reported a second outbreak of avian influenza this year, this time at an egg laying facility with 5.3 million hens. The outbreak was Iowa's fourth.

Iowa is the nation's largest producer of eggs and ranks seventh in turkey production. The state is testing birds at seven commercial facilities near the site of Friday's reported outbreak, Carson said. Another 20 commercial operations are under surveillance, she said.

The facilities being tested are a mixture of turkey and egg-laying operations, Carson said.

More:Nearly 1 million egg-laying hens will be destroyed in Iowa's third outbreak of bird flu

State and federal agencies said none of the birds nor any poultry products from flocks where avian influenza is detected will reach U.S. food supplies. No human cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza have been detected in the United States.

The first infections in Buena Vista County were reported March 6 at a commercial facility with nearly 50,000 turkeys

In addition to the Buena Vista County facilities, Iowa has experienced two other outbreaks. Officials confirmed the first one March 1, when a backyard flock of 42 chickens and ducks tested positive, and another about a week ago at a facility with about 920,000 laying hens in Taylor County in southwestern Iowa.

State officials have quarantined a six-mile-wide circle around the infected Buena Vista County egg-laying operation and is restricting movement in and out of as well as within it.

Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a disaster declaration for Buena Vista County after the first outbreak, enabling the state agriculture department and other agencies to help track, monitor and contain the disease.

Carson said the state sees no link between the latest outbreak and the others in the state.

The virus can wipe out a flock within 48 hours.

Iowa officials have said they believe wild birds, in which highly pathogenic avian influenza is widely prevalent, are the likely source of the disease. Iowa is part of the Mississippi flyway, a migration route for millions of birds each year.

Iowa agriculture leaders urge flock owners to prevent contact between their birds and wild ones and to report sick birds or unusual deaths to state or federal officials.

Donnelle Eller covers agriculture, the environment and energy for the Register. Reach her at or 515-284-8457.