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Bird flu confirmed in northwest Iowa commercial flock of 5.3 million egg-laying hens

Bird Flu South Dakota
Charlie Neibergall
/
AP
In this Nov. 16, 2009 file photo, chickens stand in their cages at a farm near Stuart, Iowa.

Iowa and federal agriculture officials have confirmed a deadly strain of bird flu in a large commercial flock of egg-laying hens in northwest Iowa’s Buena Vista County. It’s the fourth case of bird flu in the state and the largest flock to date to be infected by this year’s outbreak.

Chloe Carson, a spokesperson for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, said Friday that initial reports indicate there are approximately 5.3 million birds in the flock.

Carson said the department won’t have exact numbers for a few days. The numbers will be released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture once all the birds have been destroyed to prevent the disease from spreading.

It’s the second confirmed case of bird flu in Buena Vista County this year. The virus was confirmed in a commercial flock of nearly 50,000 turkeys in the county on March 6.

The deadly strain was also confirmed in a flock of more than 915,000 commercial egg-laying hens in southwest Iowa’s Taylor County on March 10 and a backyard flock of nearly 50 chickens and ducks in Pottawattamie County on March 1.

Agriculture officials have cautioned producers and backyard flock owners to keep their birds away from wild birds that are migrating. They can carry the virus in their saliva or feces and show no signs of infection.

Bird flu has been found in commercial and backyard flocks in 17 states, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Iowa has about 56 million egg-laying chickens and is the top egg-producing state in the country. In the 2014-2015 bird flu outbreak, Iowa and Minnesota were hit the hardest. More than 50 million birds were killed in that outbreak, including nearly 33 million in Iowa.

Katie Peikes is IPR's agriculture reporter