Bird flu detected in flock of 918,000 Southwest Iowa hens

By: - March 14, 2022 3:00 am

Swabs from birds’ mouths are placed in tubes and tested for avian influenza virus. (Erica Spackman/USDA)

A large commercial flock of egg-laying chickens in southwest Iowa is the third to be infected by highly pathogenic avian influenza, according to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

The Taylor County flock has 918,873 birds, said Chloe Carson, a spokesperson for the department.

Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a disaster proclamation Friday for the county to ensure enough state resources are available to assist the disinfection of the site. Lab tests identified the virus Thursday, and state agriculture officials have said they attempt to cull all the birds of infected flocks within 24 hours of the virus’ confirmation.

The virus is very contagious and often deadly to domestic birds.

“While this additional case of HPAI is not unexpected, we have prepared for this and are working closely with USDA and livestock producers to control and eradicate this disease from our state,” said Mike Naig, the state’s secretary of agriculture. “This is a difficult time for poultry producers. We will continue to support them and emphasize the need for strict biosecurity on farms and around poultry to help prevent the spread of this disease.”

The virus was previously found in Iowa March 6 in a flock of 50,000 commercial turkeys in Buena Vista County and March 1 in a backyard flock of 42 chickens and ducks in Pottawattamie County.

State Veterinarian Jeff Kaisand has said the likely source of infections of the previous flocks were wild birds that can carry the virus without showing symptoms.

The Taylor County flock is the second-largest to be infected by the virus in the country this year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

An outbreak in 2015 led to the culling of more than 30 million birds in Iowa.

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.