Avian flu strikes a flock of 2.1 million laying hens in Knox County, Nebraska

By: - April 27, 2022 5:25 pm

Avian flu is infecting flocks across the country this year, for the first time since 2015. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

A seventh, and so far the largest, Nebraska poultry flock has been infected by the highly contagious and deadly bird flu that is spreading across the country again this year.

The latest infection struck a flock of more than 2.1 million laying hens in Knox County, according to the Nebraska Department of Agriculture. The department is monitoring the infections in conjunction with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

This is the fourth commercial operation in Nebraska to be stricken by HPAI, 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 clothing and shoes of caretakers.

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

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that the risk of the flu transmitting from birds to people is low and that no U.S. human cases of avian flu have been detected.

Area zoos are taking special precautions to try to keep their bird populations safe. Chayton, a female peregrine falcon that has nested for years atop the WoodmenLife Tower in downtown Omaha contracted the disease and died, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission reported Monday.

State Veterinarian Dr. Roger Dudley said in the department’s news release that the Knox County farm has been quarantined and that the birds will be humanely depopulated and disposed of in an approved manner.

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

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

Nebraska’s first case was reported March 7 in a wild goose at Holmes Lake, near Lincoln.

The other outbreaks:

March 15: A mixed backyard flock of fewer than 100 chickens and waterfowl in Merrick County.

March 22: A commercial flock of 570,000 broiler chickens in Butler County. (Broilers are raised for meat production.)

March 24: A commercial flock of about 417,000 broilers in Butler County.

March 26: A backyard flock of 50 or fewer chickens and waterfowl in Holt County.

April 5: About 30 birds, a mix of chickens and waterfowl, in a backyard flock in Scotts Bluff County.

April 13: Some 1.75 million egg-laying hens at a Dixon County farm operation.

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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.