Blog First Bird Flu Outbreaks in U.S. Commercial Poultry Raise Concerns of Wider Impact.

First Bird Flu Outbreaks in U.S. Commercial Poultry Raise Concerns of Wider Impact.

The U.S Department of Agriculture confirmed cases of bird flu, a deadly threat to commercial poultry, in two separate turkey farms – one in South Dakota and another in Utah (Source: US News). The outbreak was first identified in Jerauld County, South Dakota, affecting a flock of 47,000 turkeys on October 4. 

Subsequently, another farm in Sanpete County, Utah, housing 141,000 birds reported avian influenza last Friday. These cases mark the initial instances among commercial flocks in the United States since the virus affected two turkey farms in the Dakotas in April.

Typically, to prevent the spread of the disease, infected flocks are culled, and the affected farms undergo extensive decontamination.

Until recently, the U.S. had only encountered sporadic bird flu outbreaks in the form of appearances in backyard flocks and wild birds, such as ducks, geese, and eagles.

Although wild birds may not display symptoms of avian influenza, their infections raise concerns within the poultry industry, as migrating birds can transmit the virus to vulnerable commercial flocks.

South Dakota State Veterinarian Beth Thompson expressed that it’s likely more cases will emerge. She stated, “I don’t doubt that we will have more cases. I would be very pleasantly surprised if we’re done because migration is just starting.”

In the previous year, bird flu led to substantial losses for U.S. poultry producers, affecting nearly 59 million birds in 47 states, including egg-laying chickens and turkeys, as well as chickens raised for meat.

This outbreak stands as the deadliest in the country’s history, incurring substantial economic consequences.

Consumers experienced spikes in egg and turkey prices, and the government bore costs exceeding $660 million.

In 2015, another outbreak of bird flu resulted in nearly 51 million bird casualties across 15 states, constituting one of the costliest animal health disasters in U.S. history with government costs surpassing $1 billion.

Although bird flu infections in humans are relatively rare and pose no substantial food safety risk, concerns arise when the virus infects other species, including certain mammals.

There are fears that the virus could mutate, making it easier to transmit among people. Cambodia recently reported its third human fatality from bird flu this year.

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