Bird flu hits flock of 5.3 million northwest Iowa hens; wild geese infected in Nebraska

By: - March 18, 2022 5:52 pm

(Jared Strong/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

A highly contagious and deadly avian influenza has been detected in an immense flock of egg-laying chickens in northwest Iowa, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship reported Friday.

The Buena Vista County flock has 5.3 million birds, said Chloe Carson, a spokesperson for the department. The virus was confirmed Thursday. It is the second flock in the county to be infected and the fourth in Iowa this year.

The county was among the hardest hit by a bird flu outbreak in 2015 and is under a governor’s disaster proclamation to assist with the detection and containment of the disease. State agricultural officials have said they have a goal to cull infected flocks within 24 hours of detection to prevent the virus’ spread.

Migrating wild birds — which often don’t suffer the same deadly symptoms as domestic birds — are the likely sources of the outbreaks, State Veterinarian Jeff Kaisand has said. The state ag department doesn’t identify the specific locations of the outbreaks.

In Nebraska, the state and federal Departments of Agriculture  announced a confirmed case of the disease Wednesday in a backyard flock in Merrick County.  Other cases of the virus have been confirmed in wild geese in Cedar and Douglas Counties. The earliest confirmed case in Nebraska this year came on March 7, involving a wild goose at Holmes Lake, near Lincoln.

In Iowa, the virus was previously identified in a Taylor County flock of about 919,000 egg-laying chickens on March 10, a Buena Vista flock of 50,000 turkeys on March 6, and a backyard flock of 42 chickens and ducks in Pottawattamie County on March 1.

It has been identified in a total of 39 commercial and backyard flocks in 17 states, with new confirmations coming on a nearly daily basis, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The latest affected flock in Iowa is the largest among them.

The series of outbreaks in 2015 led to the culling of more than 30 million birds in Iowa, the nation’s leading egg producer.

Staff for the Nebraska Examiner contributed to this report.

This article first appeared in the Iowa Capital Dispatch, a sister site of the Nebraska Examiner in the States Newsroom Network.

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Jared Strong
Jared Strong

Senior reporter Jared Strong has written about Iowans and the important issues that affect them for more than 15 years, previously for the Carroll Times Herald and the Des Moines Register. His investigative work exposing police misconduct has notched several state and national awards. He is a longtime trustee of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, which fights for open records and open government. He is a lifelong Iowan and has lived mostly in rural western parts of the state.