This current wave of bird flu has led to the deaths of over 50 million birds across the nation, and another 1.8 million chickens will have to be slaughtered after a case of avian flu was found on an egg-laying farm in Nebraska. In Dixon County, about 120 miles north of Omaha, the state’s 13th case of bird flu was discovered on a local egg farm.
Every chicken on the farm will be killed in an attempt to contain the deadly disease. According to the US Department of Agriculture, more than 52.3 million birds in 46 states have been killed to try and stop the spread of bird flu. Most of the birds were chickens and turkeys from commercial farms across the country.
Nebraska is second in the highest number of birds killed with 6.8 million birds affected at 13 farms. Iowa currently has the highest number, with 15.5 million birds slaughtered in containment efforts.
The avian flu mostly peters out in the summer, but this year was particularly unusual. There was a resurgence in the fall that led to 6 million birds killed in September alone. Bird flu mostly comes from wild birds as they migrate across the country. Occasionally, they will touch down on a commercial farm or backyard coop and infect other birds. The disease is spread through droppings or nasal discharge, which then contaminates soil and dust. Additionally, some wild birds carry the disease without showing symptoms, making it even more dangerous.
Commercial farms and zoos take precautions to protect their birds, but bird flu is still difficult to contain. It has contributed to the cost of chicken and turkey in supermarkets as well as feed for commercial farms.
2022 Becomes Worst Bird Flu Season with Historic Outbreak
This year’s bird flu outbreak has become the worst in US history with over 50 million birds killed. The disease poses a relatively low risk to humans, with less than 500 human deaths in the past 25 years. But it is deadly for birds, as we’ve seen. It can quickly decimate an entire farm.
It is the worst animal crisis in US history, and has definitely affected how we consume poultry and eggs. Rosemary Sifford, the USDA’s chief veterinary officer, told Reuters recently that “Wild birds continue to spread [Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza] throughout the country as they migrate, so preventing contact between domestic flocks and wild birds is critical to protecting U.S. poultry.”
The USDA recommends taking down bird feeders and avoiding sick and dead birds to prevent the spread of bird flu. “Bird feeders encourage different types of birds to gather together,” said Dr. Gail Henson, DVM/MPH of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. “The virus could easily be exchanged between them. And the shared surfaces may continue to harbor the virus for a time.”