As of June 17, 2015, 48,091,293 birds in the U.S. have been affected by highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5 since the first of 223 detections in 15 states to date was reported on Dec.19, 2014, according to USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories.
The toll of the virus includes more than 30 million hens in Iowa, 9 million birds in Minnesota (mostly turkeys), more than 53,000 birds in Missouri, and more than 40,000 birds in Arkansas.
In light of flock depopulations and economic impact (as yet undetermined), Kevin Varner, DVM, the Austin, Texas-based district director for USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), calls this “the most devastating foreign animal poultry disease epidemic that has happened in the U.S.”
“This epidemic has been a real emotional blow for those who care for poultry,” emphasizes Jo Manhart, executive director of the Missouri Egg Council. “Some are family farmers raising turkeys or broilers, and some are hired managers for poultry companies, but either way, the up front and personal aspect of those who actually deal with the ‘depopulation’ is very hard.”
The American Egg Board released information in early May indicating what commercial egg farmers are doing to prevent the spread of AI. Examples of biosecurity practices include restricting farm access, preventing hens from exposure to wild and migratory birds, increasing veterinary monitoring of flocks and using protective gear at all times.
To date, the identified HPAI H5 strains found on commercial U.S. chicken, egg, and turkey farms have not affected any humans. The U.S. CDC considers the public health risk from these domestic HPAI H5 infections to be low.
The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry has scheduled a hearing on the impacts of HPAI on the U.S. poultry sector to be held Tues., July 7, 2015 at 10:00 am EST in Room 328A in the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C.