The Nebraska Department of Agriculture, in conjunction with USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, announced this week that more than 1.8 million chickens would need to be killed after bird flu, caused by the H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) strain, was discovered on an egg-laying farm in Dixon County.
Roger Dudley, the department’s state veterinarian, noted in a statement that the affected flock will be depopulated and disposed of in an approved manner. Additionally, the department will establish a 6.2-mile control zone, as is USDA policy, around the affected premises.
Overall, Nebraska has seen 6.8 million birds on 13 farms impacted, second only to Iowa’s 15.5 million birds killed earlier this year. NDA is encouraging bird owners to prevent contact between their birds and wildlife and to practice strict biosecurity measures.
Additionally, the Oregon Department of Agriculture announced last week that bird flu was found in a non-commercial flock, resulting in a flock of 20 chickens being killed, and The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food has found HPAI in a flock of backyard chickens in Utah County and a flock of game birds in Iron County.
These are just the latest outbreaks of the disease, which has already been responsible for the slaughter of 52.3 million birds (both chickens and turkeys) in 46 states, according to USDA, which added that this is the worst toll on the poultry industry in seven years. That outbreak, in which more than 50 million birds were killed during 2014-2015, was driven by farm-to-farm transmission, while this current outbreak is being driven by wild birds.
According to the CDC, the public health risk associated with these avian influenza detections in birds remains low. The high number of birds killed offers little risk to U.S. consumers, as infected birds aren’t allowed to enter the nation’s food supply, and heating poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165 ˚F is recommended as a general food safety precaution.