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On high alert because of bird flu: chicken and turkey farms

Farms that raise turkeys and chickens for meat and eggs are on high alert and implementing biosecurity measures in anticipation of a repeat of the 2015 bird flu outbreak that killed 50 million birds across 15 states and cost the federal government nearly $1 billion.

The renewed fear stems from the discovery of the virus infecting a commercial turkey flock in Indiana on Feb. 9 as well as a flu outbreak at a commercial chicken farm in Kentucky. The flock’s 29,000 turkeys were slaughtered to halt the spread of the virus.

The poultry industry and government officials say they have plans to more quickly halt the spread of the virus based on lessons learned in 2015, but they are urging caution due to the virus strain’s potential for fatality in commercial poultry. Prices for eggs, turkey, and chicken may increase, while availability may decrease, if enough birds on enough farms become infected.

The US assures farmers and consumers that it will leverage lessons learned from the 2015 outbreak to quickly contain the disease.
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“With a confirmed case of US Poultry & Egg Association, this is definitely a high-risk period,” said Dr. Denise Heard, a poultry veterinarian and vice president of research for the US Poultry & Egg Association. “I am confident that we can improve our response to this situation, and I am crossing my fingers that this is an isolated incident; however, I would hope for the best and prepare for the worst.”

According to health officials, no human cases of avian influenza have been detected in the United States, and the disease does not currently pose a public health threat.

The 2015 outbreak resulted in the slaughter of 33 million egg-laying hens in Iowa, the leading egg producer in the country, and 9 million birds in Minnesota, the leading turkey producer in the country, with smaller outbreaks in Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. For months, the disease drove up egg and turkey prices across the country, with the cost of eggs increasing by 61 percent at one point and boneless, skinless turkey breasts increasing by 75 percent between May and July 2015.

A poultry farmer tends to a flock
The flu can spread when workers’ shoes come into contact with droppings.
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Almost $1 billion was spent by the government to get rid of and dispose of infected birds, as well as to pay producers who lost their animals for the money they lost.

H5N1 is the strain that’s now out there, and it’s very similar to the virus that spread in 2015. When the virus was first found in the United States, it had already spread through Europe and Asia for a few months. It was found on wild birds in Canada a few weeks ago, and in a commercial flock in Canada a week before.

Most strains of avian influenza that migrate wild birds carry aren’t very dangerous, which means they don’t kill the birds. These strains can sometimes get into domestic flocks and change into more dangerous viruses. As a veterinarian, Dr. Yuko Sato tells Iowa State University that the H5N1 virus that is spreading from wild birds is already highly pathogenic, which means it can be deadly right away. This is because it is already very dangerous.

The virus has been found in wild birds in New Hampshire, Delaware, North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, and South Carolina in the last few weeks, making it clear that the virus is widespread in the environment.

White turkeys on a farm

A US Poultry & Egg Association scientist has confirmed a current “period of high risk.”
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Spreading the virus is easy with the help of wild bird droppings. It can also be carried into commercial flocks by workers on their feet or on equipment. This is why biosecurity protocols have been put into place across the country in businesses. They’ve put in place new rules to keep deadly bird flu infections, which are called HPAI, from happening and to keep them from spreading.

Putting more preparation into place since the 2015 HPAI outbreak, USDA and its partners are ready for this detection, says Lyndsay Cole, a USDA spokeswoman.

As the virus spreads, federal and state officials are working with the poultry industry to put in place steps like an immediate quarantine, which stops poultry and equipment used to move birds in and out of certain areas around a barn that has been infected, as well as killing and removing infected birds at the site. Testing takes place in the area where both wild and domestic birds are kept. To kill the virus at the farm, the virus is disinfected and the farm is tested to make sure it is virus-free.

A flock of white chickens

The 2015 bird flu outbreak upped egg and poultry prices for consumers.
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Producers who want to be eligible for government aid in the event of a disaster must keep a biosecurity plan on hand that is always up to date. There’s a 14-point biosecurity plan set up by the USDA for farmers, which is audited every year and looked over twice a year, says Sato.

People who grow eggs in Iowa, a state with 49 million chickens, are working with state and federal officials to keep the disease out of their flocks, says Kevin Stiles, the executive director of the Iowa Poultry Association and the Iowa Egg Council, both of which are part of the Iowa Poultry Association.

“Biosecurity best practices are being talked about openly by the IPA, and they are also offering surveillance tests.” We believe that our farmers are ready and able to manage their flocks, he said.

About the author

Akanksha Jain

Akanksha Jain love to learn new stuff every day. With a background in computer science and a passion for writing, she loves writing for Startup, Business sections of Editorials99.

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