The worst recent outbreak of bird flu in the US occurred in 2015, when more than 230 farms in 15 states had outbreaks.
Iowa agriculture officials announced two more outbreaks of avian flu in commercial flocks Tuesday that will require the slaughter of more than 1.5 million chickens and turkeys.
One of the new outbreaks will lead to the slaughter of 1.5 million chickens at an egg-laying farm in Guthrie County, about 60 miles (97 km) west of Des Moines. The other was at a turkey farm in Hamilton County, about 65 miles (105 km) north of Des Moines, where 28,000 birds will be slaughtered.
After killing, the birds are usually buried in compost pits on farms.
Iowa State Veterinarian Dr. Jeff Kaisand said the infections appear to be coming from wild migratory birds.
The US Department of Agriculture says 17 states have had outbreaks in commercial or private outdoor flocks this year. The virus has been found in wild birds in at least 25 states.
With the addition of the new cases from Iowa, the US poultry industry has had to cull more than 15.6 million chickens and 1.3 million turkeys since January 1. In Iowa alone, infections have been found in seven commercial flocks and two backyard flocks.
Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig said the situation could get worse as the spring migration is likely to continue for a few more months. Much depends on the weather and improving biosecurity on farms, he said.
Naig said it’s too early to estimate economic losses this year.
“It’s a tough time for poultry producers, not just those that have an infected site,” he said.
Food prices are already high due to inflation and supply chain problems, and if the bird flu outbreak spreads to enough farms, prices for chicken, turkey and eggs could rise further.
Health officials say they are not aware of anyone who has contracted bird flu in the US and that the illness does not present an immediate public health concern. The virus can spread from infected birds to people, but such infections are rare and have not caused sustained outbreaks among humans.
The worst recent outbreak of bird flu in the US occurred in 2015, when more than 230 farms in 15 states had outbreaks that killed more than 50 million birds. The total economic loss was valued at $3.3 billion, according to research published in 2019 by a group of scientists at Iowa State University.
In 2015, cases did not emerge in Iowa until mid-April. This year, Iowa’s first case was confirmed on March 1.