Nearly 5 million domestic birds affected by deadly avian flu in Nebraska this year

By: - October 24, 2022 6:50 pm

Ray Avila feeds chickens on his farm on Aug. 9, 2014, near Osage, Iowa. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

OMAHA — Twelve cases of a highly contagious and deadly avian flu have now been confirmed in Nebraska this year. 

The disease has affected nearly 5 million chickens, gamebirds and other poultry in the state, in both commercial and backyard flocks.

The Nebraska Department of Agriculture, working with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, announced the most recent case Oct. 21, affecting a commercial flock of 33,500 gamebirds in York County. 

HPAI, or highly pathogenic avian influenza, is a virus that spreads easily among birds through nasal and eye secretions, as well as manure. It can spread in different ways from flock to flock, including by wild birds, through contact with infected poultry, equipment or the clothing and shoes of caretakers.

Wild birds can carry the virus without getting sick, while domesticated birds can become very sick, said state experts.

The infections have occurred in two waves this year. The first began in mid-March and lasted until late April. 

The second began in mid-September and has affected two commercial flocks and two backyard flocks since then, as recently as last week.

Before this year, Nebraska hadn’t seen a confirmed HPAI case since 2015. 

Roger Dudley, veterinarian for the State Department of Agriculture, said in a release that the York County flock was “humanely depopulated” and will be disposed of in an approved manner.

Nebraska officials will establish a 6.2-mile control zone around the affected area, as is national policy. Those in the area are advised of the signs and symptoms of HPAI and of the need to notify the state about sick or dying poultry.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk of the flu being transmitted from birds to people is low. Among the symptoms of the disease are:

  • Decreased water consumption.
  • Lack of energy and appetite.
  • Decreased egg production or soft-shelled, misshapen eggs.
  • Nasal discharge, coughing or sneezing.
  • Incoordination.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Sudden death even without other symptoms.

For more information or to report sick birds call (402) 471-2351. Early detection is vital in preventing the spread of the disease, officials said.

Cases confirmed this year by the Nebraska Department of Agriculture:

  1. March 15: A mixed backyard flock of fewer than 100 chickens and waterfowl in Merrick County.
  2. March 22: A commercial flock of 570,000 broiler chickens (for meat production) in Butler County. 
  3. March 24: A commercial flock of about 417,000 broilers in Butler County.
  4. March 26: A backyard flock of 50 or fewer chickens and waterfowl in Holt County.
  5. April 5: About 30 birds, a mix of chickens and waterfowl, in a backyard flock in Scotts Bluff County.
  6. April 12: 1.7 million laying hens in Dixon County.
  7. April 27: 2.1 million laying hens in Knox County.
  8. April 28: A backyard flock of 55 or fewer birds in a mixed flock in Washington County.
  9. Sept. 19: A backyard flock of 50 or fewer chickens in Dawes County.
  10. Oct. 3: 159,000 gamebirds in a commercial flock in York County.
  11. Oct. 3: A backyard flock of 100 or fewer chickens in Box Butte County.
  12. Oct. 21: 33,500 gamebirds in York County.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site.

Cate Folsom
Cate Folsom

Editor-in-Chief Cate Folsom has more than 40 years of experience in daily journalism, spending the bulk of that time at the Omaha World-Herald. She worked in various roles, including features writer, copy editor, Washington Bureau reporter, assistant city editor, investigative team editor, metro-regional editor and editorial page editor.