A government confirmation today of bird flu at an Iowa farm means more than 5 million egg-laying hens must be destroyed. Federal experts found the highly infectious and deadly H5N2 virus at a farm in northwest Iowa. It’s the first chicken farm in Iowa to be affected by the virus. The outbreaks have cost Midwestern poultry producers nearly 7-point-8 million birds since March.
Iowa joins a list of states that have detected bird flu in poultry since the beginning of the year. The other states are Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington and Wisconsin. According to reports, of the top-10 egg producing states, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Texas, California, Michigan, Minnesota, Georgia and Nebraska have not been as affected by the outbreak. Iowa is the country’s top egg-producing state. Nearly one in five eggs consumed in the United States comes from Iowa.
Poultry producers in Ohio still have cause for concern. There are about four chickens to every person in Ohio, which produce about 8 billion eggs a year. Indiana officials are preparing for the possibility of the flu pandemic reaching their state. In January this year, a California turkey farm was quarantined after bird flu was detected, but that was a different strain, the H5N8 version. The Department of Agriculture in Michigan and Minnesota are monitoring the situation.
Yesterday, Scott Walker, the Governor of Wisconsin, declared a state of emergency after the virus was found in three poultry flocks, affecting tens of thousands of chickens and turkeys in that state. “We must act quickly and efficiently to contain the outbreak and protect domestic poultry,” Walker said in a statement. “It is important to note, however, there is no threat to humans with the avian flu outbreak.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed that there is little chance that humans could become infected. According to the department’s press release, “the risk to people from these H5N2 infections in wild birds, backyard flocks and commercial poultry, to be low. No human infections with the virus have ever been detected.”
However, in response to the Iowa outbreak, Mexico, the largest purchaser of U.S. chickens, banned imports today of eggs and live birds from that state. The poultry industry is concerned about the spread of the virus, which moves quickly between flocks. It appears that turkeys pass on the virus more easily than chickens; the fatality rate is often 100%, versus about 60% in chickens.