USDA Indicates Near-Record Number of US Chickens and Turkeys Are Dying From Avian Flu

by Shelby Scott
(Photo by Julian Stratenschulte/picture alliance via Getty Images)

While we’re still waiting to celebrate Halloween, Thanksgiving is right around the corner and that means many Outsiders will soon be heading to grocery stores and supermarkets to pick up their holiday feast. However, finding that perfect Thanksgiving turkey might be harder this year than it’s been in the past as the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that a near-record number of both chickens and turkeys have died this year due to cases of avian flu.

Fox News reports that more than 5 million birds died from avian flu between January and July this year. The increased number of deaths is the result of a new form of the virus which has infected more wild chickens and turkeys in 2022 than ever before. The deaths are the result of both cullings and infections, the latter intended to limit the spread of avian flu to other flocks which are already at risk of contracting the virus.

Economically, avian flu has caused both a ban on exports as well as decreased production of eggs, resulting in a severe rise in prices for highly desired and necessary food products. Per the outlet, the same strand of avian flu ravaging flocks across the States is also affecting farmers and agriculturalists across Europe.

The USDA also provided comparable statistics on the current avian flu outbreak versus 2015’s. During the prior outbreak, approximately 50 million birds were affected. The current avian flu outbreak has affected 47.6 million birds so far, encompassing 42 of the 50 states.

USDA Predicts 2022’s Avian Flu Outbreak Will Have Lasting Effects on Wild Birds

While turkeys and chickens intended for agricultural purposes lie at the center of this bout of avian flu, experts from the USDA predict the current strand will not only begin to infect wild birds but will also have a lasting effect.

Rosemary Sifford, a USDA official, provided insight about how large of an impact the current outbreak could have in the future.

“This virus could be present in wild birds for the foreseeable future,” she said. “This one is certainly different.”

Even worse, she added, “Unfortunately, what we’ve done probably hasn’t been enough to protect us from this high load of virus in the wild bird population.”

In addition to turkeys and chickens, experts have also begun noting this same infectious strand in populations of ducks and other poultry. The infection has also been inhibiting affected birds for longer periods of time compared to avian flu outbreaks in the past.

Simultaneously, Europe is experiencing the worst avian flu outbreak its seen in decades, with farmers often forced to kill entire flocks, severely impacting both the economy and individual producers. So far, the continent has seen the deaths of about 50 million infected birds.