Nearly 700,000 Turkeys Euthanized in Utah Due to Avian Flu

by Megan Molseed
(Getty Images/Royce Bair)

An outbreak of the avian flu has led to officials euthanizing as many as 700,000 turkeys in the Utah area. According to a statement from the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food officials, the first cases of the avian flu were detected earlier this year. However, officials were seeing the number of cases soaring by August. According to the officials, as many as 2.2 million wild birds including turkeys have suffered the effects of the “bird flu” across the country.

According to Bailee Woolstenhulme who serves as a public information officer with the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, Utah turkey farmers are seeing some of the highest numbers of turkeys suffering from the avian flu.

“This is a huge impact to these farmers,” Woolstenhulme says. “And the local economies where these farms are located.”

“From the workers that work on those farms and also, the income that comes from selling the turkeys each year,” Woolstenhulme continues. “This will also have a fairly big impact on consumers as well.”

The Avian Flu Breakout Could Make Turkey Shopping A Bit More Difficult This Thanksgiving

According to the statements, avian flu is transmitted by wild birds. Because of this, cases are much more prevalent in the spring and fall as the animals migrate. This deadly disease could also hit us in our wallets this Thanksgiving. The traditional turkeys may be harder to find in our neighborhood grocery stores. According to USDA reports, the price of the average turkey is expected to rise as much as 50%. This means consumers may be seeing a price increase of around $2 per pound.

Bird flu infections mean serious health complications and issues in the affected birds. However, health officials stress that the chance of people being infected remains low.

The Utah turkeys being euthanized resided on 18 separate farms across the state. The move is to control the spread of the deadly disease while also ending the birds’ suffering.

The US Saw An Avian Flu Outbreak In 2015, However, The Current Strain Has A Higher Mortality Rate

According to officials, this strain of the avian flu is more contagious than the strain that swept through the country back in 2015. This strain has a 90% mortality rate. The 2015 outbreak saw most of the cases spreading across farms. However, this 2022 strain is sourced back to wild birds.

Officials note that it’s important to take precautions with these animals. Especially as the cases continue to soar, Woolstenhulme says.

“Making sure that they stay within enclosures and away from where they can have contact with wild birds,’ says Woolstenhulme.

“Making sure they don’t have shared water or feed sources with the wild birds” is another important step the expert notes. Shea also adds that careful handwashing will help keep the illness at bay.

“[Be] extra cautious with the clothing you wear in and out of the coop, as well as washing your hands,” Woolstenhulme says.