Iowa disposing of millions of dead chickens and turkeys

Iowa disposing of millions of dead chickens and turkeys

Progress being made in depopulation and disposal of poultry at farms affected by bird flu.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture said there were no new probable cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) reported on Thursda,y June 4. That was the first time in a long time that no new cases were reported in the daily update. This spring's massive outbreak of avian influenza has destroyed about half of Iowa's egg-laying flock and a large number of turkeys on farms. Depopulation and disposal of birds from previously announced infected sites is ongoing.

Related: Avian flu timeline: A recap of HPAI headlines

BIOSECURITY: Most of the 29 million chickens and turkeys infected in Iowa have been euthanized to help contain the virus that is decimating the state's poultry industry. Trucks hauling dead birds to landfills and incinerators are constantly cleaned and disinfected.

Since first hitting Iowa in mid-April, the H5N2 virus has been confirmed in 72 commercial flocks and backyard flocks of chickens, poultry and ducks. As of June 4 in Iowa, a total of 29.1 million chickens and turkeys stricken by avian influenza have either died or been euthanized to help contain the virus and keep it from spreading to non-infected facilities. Nationwide, an estimated 46 million birds have been infected at 212 operations in 15 states.

Depopulation and disposal of birds at infected sites is on-going
USDA has taken the lead in working with the owners of affected sites to ensure the safe and humane euthanasia of birds, says Dustin Vande Hoef, communications director for the Iowa Department of Agriculture. He puts together the daily report and posts it on the department's website. USDA has more than 1,700 staff and contractors helping respond to the avian influenza situation in Iowa.

"Depopulation should be complete as of today on all previously announced infected turkey sites. All of those birds will be composted on-site," Vande Hoef said on June 4.

Related: USDA, CDC officials answer avian flu questions

As of June 3 in Iowa, 24.1 million of the 27.7 million commercial egg layers and pullets had been euthanized. Disposal is ongoing using composting, on-site burial, incineration and landfills. A large incinerator at Cherokee landfill is currently in operation and it is processing approximately seven loads of dead birds a day in the start-up phase. Adjustments are being made to increase capacity. When fully operational, the large incinerator will destroy up to 250,000 dead birds every 24 hours.


Turkeys composted on-site; chickens are disposed of in other ways
In cases where chickens and young hens can't be buried or composted on site, or can't be hauled to the incinerator, the dead birds are being hauled from infected poultry facilities to landfills to be buried. Bio-secure waste containers from these affected poultry sites are being hauled by truck to landfills in Mills and Sioux counties. Additional trucks are being added to the operation.

All materials are transported along Iowa Department of Transportation-approved routes. All trucks are cleaned and disinfected when they leave an affected site and again before leaving the landfill.

Related: Bird flu sounds bad, but poultry production still increasing

Updated information about the number cases, when they are confirmed and other relevant information is posted daily to the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship's website

Disease control experts consider the risk to people to be low
Vande Hoef notes in his daily update posting: "The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Iowa Department of Public Health both consider the risk to people to be low from these HPAI H5 infections that are occurring in wild birds, in backyard flocks and on commercial poultry farms. No human infections with the virus have ever been detected and there is no food safety risk for consumers."

USDA also has Public Service Announcements (PSAs) and FAQ information posted discussing food safety:
We have the power (60 seconds)
We have the power (30 seconds)
Q&A: Food Safety and Avian Influenza

Iowa agencies are assisting in response to avian influenza
Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship, Iowa Department of Homeland Security & Emergency Management, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Iowa Department of Public Health (and local public health officials), Iowa Department of Human Services, Iowa Department of Transportation, and Iowa National Guard have all supported the response effort to this disease. The State Emergency Operations Center remains partially activated to ensure coordination of all state resources. 

Background information: The United States has the strongest avian influenza surveillance program in the world. As part of the existing USDA avian influenza response plans, federal and state partners as well as industry are responding quickly and decisively to these outbreaks by following five basic steps: 1) Quarantine: restricting movement of poultry and poultry-moving equipment into and out of the control area; 2) Eradicate: humanely euthanizing the affected flock(s); 3) Monitor region: testing wild and domestic birds in a broad area around the quarantine area; 4) Disinfect: kills the virus in the affected flock locations; and 5) Test: confirm that poultry farms in the area are free of the virus.


The Iowa Department of Agriculture in partnership with the Iowa Department of Public Health are working directly with poultry workers at the affected facilities to ensure proper precautions are being taken.

All bird owners should continue to practice good biosecurity
These virus strains can travel in wild birds without those birds appearing sick. People should avoid contact with sick/dead poultry or wildlife. If contact occurs, wash your hands with soap and water, and change clothing before having any contact with healthy domestic poultry and birds.

All bird owners, whether commercial producers or backyard flock owners, should continue to practice good biosecurity, prevent contact between their birds and wild birds, and report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to state/federal officials, either through their state veterinarian at 515-281-5321 or through USDA's toll-free number at 866-536-7593. Information is posted daily to the Iowa Department of Agriculture website

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