Avian Flu Continues to Spread

The recent H5N2 avian influenza virus may affect the poultry industry for years to come, according to USDA’s chief veterinary officer Dr. John Clifford. Although Dr. Clifford said new cases should drop to close to zero once warmer weather kills off the virus, it is very likely it will resurge this fall as migratory water fowl carry the virus to East Coast broiler chicken farms. Eastern U.S. poultry producers are bracing for the potential arrival of the avian flu outbreak later this year. The fear is that the virus is already somewhere undetected in the Atlantic Flyway and could spread this fall when wild ducks fly south for the winter. The Atlantic Flyway includes several of the country’s top poultry producing states such as Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia, Delaware and Maryland.

USDA is working on a vaccine to counter a strain of bird flu. Chicken farmers in Iowa took steps to protect their flocks, including dipping their boots in disinfectant before entering barns and upgraded ventilation systems help to keep wild birds out of barns. Both Minnesota and Wisconsin have declared a state of emergency to combat avian flu within the state that includes using each state’s National Guard to assist in the response to the bird flu, including disinfecting after culling. Minnesota officials estimate that the cost will reach $7.3 million to combat the outbreak.

China, Russia, South Korea and Thailand have shut off all poultry imports from the U.S. while 33 other countries, including Mexico, Japan and Canada, are declining poultry products from affected states. Other countries are limiting the ban to individual counties where the virus has been confirmed or requiring products be heated to a temperature that will kill the virus before the exports will be accepted. USDA is working with the poultry industry to limit the impact of the trade bans.

So far, the outbreak has affected more than 13 million birds in U.S. commercial flocks including 9.8 million hens in Iowa and more than 3 million birds in Minnesota.