AGRICULTURE

New bird flu outbreaks push number of birds destroyed in Iowa to 8.2 million

Donnelle Eller
Des Moines Register

New bird flu outbreaks in a pair of Iowa commercial poultry facilities have resulted in the  destruction of nearly 1.53 million birds to prevent the spread of the deadly avian ailment, Iowa agriculture officials said Tuesday.

The outbreak were at a Guthrie County egg facility with 1.5 million laying hens and the a Hamilton County operation that had 28,000 turkeys, said Chloe Carson, spokesperson for the Iowa Department of Agriculture.

Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig said in a call with reporters that there now have been nine outbreaks in Iowa since the beginning of the month — two in backyard flocks and in seven commercial facilities.

More:Iowa’s seventh bird flu outbreak detected in Franklin County chicken flock

The Iowa Department of Agriculture has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to join its efforts in responding to avian influenza, which has hit nine commercial and backyard flocks in Iowa so far.

The birds destroyed in the latest round push the statewide total to nearly 8.2 million, or about half of the birds killed nationwide to as a result of highly pathogenic avian influenza. Iowa is the nation's largest producer of eggs and sixth-largest producer of turkeys.

Iowa State Veterinarian Jeff Kaisand said all the birds are being disposed of on location, even large numbers like the 5.3 million laying hens destroyed in mid-March at an egg facility in Buena Vista County.

"It's being done on site. We're not moving anything," Kaisand said.

More:Buena Vista County hit with third bird flu outbreak. It's Iowa's sixth report of the deadly disease

A 2015 bird flu outbreak resulted in the destruction of 32.7 million birds in Iowa.

Naig said the state has called the U.S. Department of Agriculture for help in its response to the current outbreak. The state wants the birds in the infected facilities to be destroyed within 24 hours to prevent the virus' spread.

"We asked for support because we needed additional folks with additional expertise," Naig said.

Kaisand said he believes wild birds, in which the disease is prevalent, are infecting Iowa's poultry. The state is part of the Mississippi flyway, a migration route for millions of birds each year.

More:Iowa agriculture department shuts down bird contests at fairs to prevent bird flu spread

"It doesn't look like there's lateral spread" between facilities, Kaisand said.

State and federal agencies have 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 the disease have been detected in the United States. 

Gov. Kim Reynolds is expected to issue disaster proclamations for Guthrie and Hamilton counties, enabling the state agriculture department and other agencies to help track, monitor and contain the disease.

Officials will test flocks within six miles of an infected facility and restrict movement inside the area, but the state couldn't immediately say how many more facilities were being tested.

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