Bird flu strikes flock of 1.1 million hens in Wright County

Iowa's bird flu death toll has been driven by the infection of large egg-laying operations. (Photo by Jared Strong/Iowa Capital Dispatch)
Jared Strong
Iowa Capital Dispatch

A deadly and highly transmissible avian influenza recently infected a flock of about 1.1 million egg-laying chickens in north-central Iowa, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship reported Monday.

The infection of the Wright County flock is the second this fall in a domestic flock in Iowa. The first was a backyard flock of 48 birds in Dallas County.

There have been ongoing detections of highly pathogenic avian influenza in neighboring states in recent weeks as migratory birds — which are believed to be the primary vectors of the virus — fly south for the winter, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.

“With (the virus) continuing to be a significant threat across the country, this is a difficult and stressful time for poultry farmers and egg producers,” said Mike Naig, the state’s agriculture secretary. “We have been preparing for the possibility of additional outbreaks and are working closely with USDA and producers to eradicate this disease from our state.”

Entire flocks are culled to prevent the spread of the virus, which is not readily transmissible to humans.

Iowa is the nation’s leading egg producer and has suffered the largest bird losses of any state this year, partly due to its massive commercial flocks. The number of Iowa birds affected now totals about 14.5 million, according to USDA data. Nebraska has the second-highest death toll at 5 million.

The virus detection in Wright County flock is the 21st in Iowa this year. Nebraska has had 12.

Minnesota has the most — a total of 103 flocks — but its total number of birds is about 3.8 million. That’s because its commercial flocks are most often turkeys that number in the tens of thousands rather than the millions. Two of Iowa’s affected flocks this year had at least 5 million birds.

Iowa Capital Dispatch is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Iowa Capital Dispatch maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kathie Obradovich for questions: Follow Iowa Capital Dispatch on Facebook and Twitter.


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