A second outbreak of avian influenza has been discovered in Iowa, this time at a commercial egg laying facility in Osceola County in northwest Iowa. USDA confirmed the presence of the highly pathogenic H5N2 virus on April 20. The egg farm has 5.3 million laying hens. All of the birds in the flock will be euthanized to prevent the spread of the disease, officials say.
Last week, H5N2 avian influenza was discovered in a flock of 27,000 turkeys in Buena Vista County, also in northwest Iowa. Those birds were also euthanized. The disease is capable of killing an entire flock within 48 hours, says Dr. Dave Schmitt, state veterinarian at the Iowa Department of Agriculture.
Iowa is home to roughly 50 million hens that lay nearly one in five eggs consumed in the U.S. "My worst fear at the moment is the virus gets into the commercial egg-laying flocks," says Kyoungjin Yoon, professor of veterinary and diagnostic medicine at Iowa State University.
Iowa's poultry industry is increasing its biosecurity efforts
Poultry scientists and government officials believe the virus is being spread by migratory birds in the Mississippi flyway, where the strain has been previously identified. The birds can transmit the virus through their droppings.
The poultry industry in Iowa and surrounding states has increased biosecurity efforts. Last week officials said they were concerned that the poultry-killing disease would make its way into Iowa's commercial egg-laying industry. Iowa is the nation's number one egg producing state. Egg production is a $2 billion industry in Iowa, which has about 50 million hens that lay nearly one if every five eggs consumed in the U.S., says Randy Olson, executive director of the Iowa Poultry Association.
USDA National Veterinary Lab in Ames confirmed the findings
The egg laying flock on the Osceola County farm experienced increased hen mortality and as a result, samples were sent to the South Dakota State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory for preliminary testing. USDA's APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa, confirmed the South Dakota lab's findings. The USDA lab in Ames is the only internationally recognized Avian Influenza reference laboratory in the United States.
USDA APHIS is working closely with the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship on a joint incident response, says Schmitt. State officials quarantined the premise and birds on the property will be humanely euthanized to prevent the spread of the disease. The U.S. has the strongest Avian Influenza (AI) surveillance program in the world, he adds. As part of the existing USDA avian influenza response plans, federal and state partners as well as the poultry industry are responding quickly and decisively to these outbreaks by following these 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 & Land Stewardship in partnership with the Iowa Department of Public Health are working directly with poultry workers at the affected facility to ensure proper precautions are being taken. 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.
No matter what size flock, everyone needs to practice biosecurity
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. You should report either through the state veterinarian at 515-281-5321 or through USDA's toll-free number at 1-866-536-7593. Additional information on biosecurity for backyard flocks can be found at http://healthybirds.aphis.usda.gov.
For more information about the ongoing avian influenza disease incidents visit the APHIS website. More information about avian influenza can be found on the USDA avian influenza page. More information about avian influenza and public health is available on the CDC website. Information will also be posted to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship's website at www.iowaagriculture.gov/avianinfluenza.asp.
Center for Disease Control considers risk to people to be low
Federal and state health officials consider the risk to people to be low from these infections in wild birds, backyard flocks and commercial poultry, says Schmitt. No human infections with the virus have ever been detected, according to the federal Center for Disease Control. The infected facility in northwest Iowa and poultry facilities within 10 kilometers around it have been quarantined. State officials will test commercial and backyard poultry in the area for the disease to determine they're free of the virus.
The lethal virus strain has been found in several states in recent weeks, including Arkansas, Wisconsin, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota. More than 2.4 million turkeys and chickens have been killed in Midwest state since March by the disease or by authorities working to prevent it from spreading.