ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

States remain vigilant as avian influenza returns for the fall

As of Sept. 7, nationwide there have been 200 commercial flocks, 229 backyard flocks and nearly 44 million birds affected by highly pathogenic avian influenza.

3331474+backyard chickens.jpg
New cases of avian influenza in late August have spurred new poultry restrictions in North Dakota.
File photo
We are part of The Trust Project.

ST. PAUL — With the fall bird migration underway and new cases of avian flu being reported, the poultry industry is being forced to keep its guard up or risk devastating losses.

Dr. Shauna Voss with the Minnesota Board of Animal Health said the return of highly pathogenic avian influenza in August came a little sooner than expected for the nation's top turkey producing state.

"Detection did come a little bit earlier than we had anticipated," Voss said. "But because we had already started that prep work, we were ready to respond and were able to act quickly on that first case."

A commercial turkey operation in Minnesota's Meeker County was hit on Aug. 30 and a backyard flock in Hennepin County, which includes Minneapolis, reported cases on Sept. 1. They were first cases in the state since May.

The deadly flu can be spread by wild birds, especially waterfowl, that will soon be migrating south in large numbers.

ADVERTISEMENT

While biosecurity measures can help prevent farm-to-farm spread, wild birds are a wild card.

Voss said on Sept. 7 it is assumed these cases are related to wild birds but that has not been confirmed and is still being investigated.

After a 2015 avian flu outbreak hit 110 Minnesota farms, affecting more than 9 million birds, this year's losses aren't as great.

"So we credit that to just better biosecurity practice and a quicker response with our cases," Voss said.

That same day as the Hennepin County case, a backyard flock in North Dakota's Cass County, which includes Fargo, reported cases.

In September, there also have been cases in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, and California.

As of Sept. 7, nationwide there have been 200 commercial flocks, 229 backyard flocks and nearly 44 million birds affected by highly pathogenic avian influenza.

In the upper Midwest:
Iowa: 15 commercial flocks, 4 backyard flocks, 13.37 million birds.
Minnesota: 61 commercial flocks, 22 backyard flocks, 3.14 million birds.
North Dakota: 4 commercial flocks, 13 backyard flocks, 167,036 birds.
South Dakota: 36 commercial flocks, 4 backyard flocks, 1.67 million birds.

ADVERTISEMENT

Iowa is the nation's largest egg producer, with large flocks, making it the state with the most birds affected in 2022.

Iowa has not had any new cases in Iowa since May 2, and its final commercial poultry site was released from quarantine on July 21, according to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

"We certainly keep tabs on our neighboring states to know what's happening there, and there's pretty good communication," Voss said. "Some of our Minnesota operations do have operations in other states so it's important to maintain that level of communication so that we know what's happening in our surrounding areas."

Iowa egg production in May was down 28% from 2021, according to the USDA.

"Given that this is caused by migratory birds, it would not be unexpected that there could be additional cases, however, it is very difficult to predict the extent of any potential outbreak and would be irresponsible to speculate further," Don McDowell, director of communications for the Iowa ag department, said in an email. "We are continuing to remind and encourage poultry farmers, egg producers, and those with backyard flocks to remain vigilant with their biosecurity."

A farm that is hit by the avian must depopulate the farm, which refers to killing off all the birds, and follow several biosecurity steps before poultry can return. Voss said most of the farms that were hit in the spring outbreak have returned to production with no sign of reinfection.

With fall bird migration also comes hunting season for waterfowl. Hunters should keep avian flu in mind when they are out in the field and when they return home.

"So as hunters go out, just remember that anytime that we're coming in contact with wild birds and their environment, there's always a risk that we're going to transmit something or carry something back to your farm, and so making sure that you've got some protocols in place to change clothes, change shoes, have a couple of days downtime and before going in with your birds," Voss said.

ADVERTISEMENT

Minnesota has a hotline for anyone with poultry to ask questions or for anyone to report sick birds at 1-833-454-0156. If it is after hours or on the weekend, call 1-800-422-0798.

Reach Jeff Beach at jbeach@agweek.com or call 701-451-5651 (work) or 859-420-1177.
What to read next
Lynn and Jason Kotrba have a personal connection with Huntington's Disease and wanted to help with the potentially life-saving Huntington's Disease research.