DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Bird flu has been detected in a backyard flock of ducks and chickens in western Iowa, federal officials said Wednesday, a troubling development for a state that is home to the nation’s largest number of egg-laying hens.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said it confirmed highly pathogenic avian influenza in the flock of fewer than 50 birds in Pottawattamie County. State officials quarantined the affected location and the birds were killed and incinerated to prevent the spread of the disease.
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig said since it was a small noncommercial flock there would be no resulting trade or supply chain issues.
“The virus does appear to be very prevalent in wild birds so the next few months during the northern migration in the Mississippi flyway will be a time of high alert for all poultry owners,” he said.
Cases have been discovered in flocks across the nation in the past month.
The first infection was identified in a commercial flock of turkeys in Indiana on Feb. 9. Since then, five more flocks have been found with cases in Indiana, where more than 171,000 birds have been killed and removed. The virus also was detected in a flocks of turkeys and broiler chickens in Kentucky last month, resulting in the destruction and disposal of more than 284,000 birds. A commercial chicken flock in Delaware also was infected, leading to the disposal of 1.2 million birds, the USDA said.
A noncommercial backyard case also was identified Wednesday in Connecticut. Similar cases have been found in backyard flocks in recent days in Michigan, Maine, New York and Virginia.
The discovery of avian influenza is especially troubling in Iowa, the nation's leading egg producer. In 2015, an outbreak led producers to kill 33 million hens in the state and 9 million birds in Minnesota, the nation’s leading turkey producer. Smaller outbreaks were reported in Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
Avian influenza is an airborne respiratory virus that spreads easily among chickens through nasal and eye secretions, as well as manure. The virus can spread from flock to flock by wild birds, through contact with infected poultry, by equipment, and on the clothing and shoes of caretakers.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the recent bird flu detections do not present an immediate public health concern. No human cases of these avian influenza viruses have been detected in the United States. While it can be transmitted to humans, it is unusual and typically due to close contact with infected birds.