South Dakota Culls Nearly 90,000 Birds Amid Avian Flu Outbreak

by Matthew Memrick
(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Two South Dakota facilities euthanized 85,000 birds amid the state’s first avian flu outbreak in seven years.

Two farms in southeastern Charles Minx county diagnosed turkeys with the outbreak. South Dakota Public Broadcasting reported birds that came in contact with the turkeys also died.

The cullings kept hunters from becoming infected with avian flu. Humans can get infected when the virus gets into a person’s eyes, nose, or mouth. Individuals can also inhale the virus.

The Hill reported on the bird culling event.

South Dakota has a history with the influenza virus strain. In 2015, an outbreak infected ten farms during a period that impacted 50 million birds in 15 states.  

South Dakota Culls Nearly 90,000 Birds Amid Avian Flu Outbreak

The website reported that officials are looking at two additional sites for the avian flu. 

Assistant state veterinarian Dr. Mendel Miller said they would be named if positive tests returned.

Miller said the culling response was going well. He commended the industry for “stepping up and trying to prevent (the avian flu).”

“They’re doing everything they can, but you know, there’s just some things that are out of their control, and we just have to deal with it when it happens,” Miller told The Hill.

South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks officials identified the current outbreak involving “the highly pathogenic avian influenza.”

Miller said he hoped the outbreak wouldn’t spread. However, there were still dangers with migratory waterfowl.

Miller noted if “they’re still around,” that means “that risk is still here.”

Officials want people to report any sick or dead birds, especially waterfowl. Symptoms folks can look for are unusual behavior, loss of coordination, or the inability to fly or walk properly. Contact your local conservation officer if you see any birds with these issues.

Nationwide Avian Flu Reports Still Out There

Since January, states have reported avian flu cases in Atlantic, Central, and Mississippi flyways.

Earlier this month, US Department of Agriculture officials diagnosed the disease in a flock of commercial broiler chickens in Missouri’s Stoddard County. In Jefferson County, Wisconsin, officials found the avian flu in a commercial chicken operation. 

South Dakota GFP senior waterfowl biologist Rocco Murano said the current strain seemed “more severe” in wild birds and more transmissible in wild bird populations.

“With the spring migration, large numbers of birds are mixing together and moving across the landscape,” the Brookings resident said. 

Murano took comfort in the upcoming warmer temperatures. The official compared the avian flu to the human flu in “less present” in warmer weather. 

There was one species Murano was not concerned with hunters going after. He said snow goose hunters were ok amid the outbreak.

These birds, however, needed to be cooked at 165 degrees. Hunters should dry their gear before going out hunting each time.

Finally, Murano said hunters must get their harvested birds after hunts, and carcasses must be disposed of properly.