Deadly bird flu hits Nebraska commercial farm of 1.7 million egg-laying hens

By: - April 13, 2022 6:38 pm

Chickens roost indoors on a Suffolk farm in England after another strain of avian influenza hit in 2007. (Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

Nebraska is reporting another confirmed case of a highly contagious and deadly bird flu in a commercial flock — this time in a Dixon County farm operation of some 1.75 million egg-laying hens.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the latest case brings Nebraska to six affected domestic flocks, three of them commercial operations. A total of about 2.7 million birds are involved.

In Iowa, this year’s outbreak has affected 16 flocks involving about 13.3 million birds.

It all has contributed to rising prices of egg and poultry as the egg-centric Easter weekend draws near.

Roger Dudley, veterinarian for Nebraska’s Department of Agriculture, said in a media release that the Dixon County farm has been quarantined since the confirmation Tuesday.

To be disposed of humanely

“The birds will be humanely depopulated and disposed of in an approved manner,” he said in a statement released in partnership with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

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

The HPAI 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 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 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.

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

Broilers, egg layers, waterfowl

On Wednesday, Dudley also announced the end of surveillance and incineration processes of the bird flocks that had been reported in Merrick and Holt Counties.

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

National news organizations have reported that some 23 million birds have been killed across the country to limit the spread of what has become the deadliest U.S. outbreak of this bird flu strain since 2015. 

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

In addition to the Dixon County farm, other Nebraska domestic flock cases, according to the USDA:

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.

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Cindy Gonzalez
Cindy Gonzalez

Senior Reporter Cindy Gonzalez, an Omaha native, has more than 35 years of experience, largely at the Omaha World-Herald. Her coverage areas have included business and real estate development; regional reporting; immigration, demographics and diverse communities; and City Hall and local politics. She has won awards from organizations including Great Plains Journalism, the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing (SABEW) and the Associated Press. Cindy has been recognized by various nonprofits for community contributions and diversity efforts. She chairs the board that oversees the local university’s student newspaper.