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US Bird Flu Toll: 20 Million Chickens, Five Million Turkeys

07 May 2015

US - In the latest official update, 11 new outbreaks of H5N2 highly pathogenic avian influenza have been reported in US poultry; eight of these are in commercial turkeys and two in commercial chickens, all in counties and states with previous outbreaks. A backyard flock in Missouri is also affected. The 133 outbreaks so far have affected more than 25.7 million birds.

The most recent report from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the USDA confirms 11 new outbreaks of high-path avian flu in US poultry on 5 May:

  • Iowa, Wright county - 1,031,200 commercial chickens
  • Minnesota, Swift county - 151,300 commercial turkeys
  • Minnesota, Pipestone county - 72,200 commercial turkeys
  • Minnesota, Nicollet county - commercial chickens (number pending)
  • Missouri, Lewis county - backyard flock of mixed poultry (number pending)
  • Minnesota, Kandiyohi county - 89,100 commercial turkeys
  • Minnesota, Kandiyohi county - 40,600 commercial turkeys
  • Minnesota, Kandiyohi county - 11,200 commercial turkeys
  • Iowa, Cherokee county - 100,000 commercial turkeys
  • Wisconsin, Barron county - 57,200 commercial turkeys
  • Wisconsin, Barron county - 182,400 commercial turkeys.

In each of these outbreaks, the cause has been confirmed as the H5N2 subtype of highly pathogenic avian influenza virus of mixed Eurasian and American origin.

All these outbreaks are in the area of the Mississippi flyway for migrating birds.

Six new outbreaks suspected in Iowa

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship reported on 6 May that it is responding to six probable cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in commercial poultry farms:

  • Sioux county 5 - pullet farm with an estimated 100,000 birds.
  • Sioux county 6 - commercial laying operation with an estimated 100,000 birds 
  • Sioux county 7 - pullet farm (number of birds pending)
  • O’Brien county 3 - backyard duck flock, tested as part of monitoring efforts around a previous confirmed case and found positive for H5N2 highly pathogenic avian influenza.
  • Sioux county 8 - commercial laying operation (number pending)
  • Sioux county 9 - commercial laying operation (number pending).

With the exception of the backyard flock, each farm experienced increased mortality and initial testing showed it positive for H5 avian influenza. Additional confirmatory testing is pending from the APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames.

No new outbreaks suspected in Minnesota

On 6 May, the Minnesota Board of Animal Health announced there were no new presumptive virus-positive flocks. 

A total of more than 5.59 million poultry on 82 farms in 21 counties have been affected in the state.

Senate pushes for avian flu control support, funding

US Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin has joined a Senate effort to ensure strong support to test for and help limit the spread of avian flu. 

In a letter to key Senate appropriators, the group of seven Senators urge prioritisation of future funding for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN), which coordinates all of the testing to limit the spread of animal diseases, including Avian flu.

Earlier this week, Senator Baldwin joined a letter led by Senator Klobuchar to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies, urging the Subcommittee to prioritize funding in their FY2016 Appropriations bill to address the ongoing outbreak.

Overview of high-path avian flu outbreaks in US poultry

The following information is based on published USDA APHIS outbreak reports:

  • The latest cases bring the total number of confirmed high-path avian flu outbreaks since December 2014 to 133.
  • Outbreaks have occurred in poultry in 13 states.
  • Three of the early outbreaks were caused by the H5N8 sub-type of the virus but in all those since mid-February 2015, an H5N2 variant of mixed Eurasian and American origin has been confirmed.
  • The majority of outbreaks have been in commercial turkeys (100); 19 have been in commercial chickens, one in a mixed commercial flock and 13 in backyard flocks.
  • The number of poultry affected by these outbreaks now exceeds 25.71 million. This figure includes more than 20.32 million commercial chickens and 5.31 million commercial turkeys as well as 7,173 backyard poultry.
  • The disease has also affected five captive wild birds.

Further Reading

You can visit the Avian Flu page by clicking here.

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