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Bird flu confirmed in Iowa for the first time since May

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Bird flu has hit a backyard flock in Dallas County, the first case of highly pathogenic avian influenza in Iowa since May and the 20th this year, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship announced Thursday.

A spokesperson for the Iowa agriculture department said the backyard flock of mixed species had 48 birds. The flock was destroyed to stop the spread of bird flu.

“It is not unexpected that we would face additional highly pathogenic avian influenza challenges in Iowa given that the fall migration is underway, and many other states have recently announced confirmed cases,” said Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig in a statement.

Naig said the state is working with producers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other industry stakeholders to respond to and limit the spread of the virus.

Prior to Thursday, the last case of bird flu in a backyard or commercial flock in Iowa was confirmed May 2 in a backyard flock in Bremer County. Iowa has had 20 detections of bird flu in commercial and backyard flocks since March 1.

This year’s outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza across the country has been attributed to wild birds. They can carry the virus in their intestinal tract and shed it through their excrement or saliva. Wild birds are on their fall migration south to wintering grounds. The birds are more spread out during this migration compared to spring, Iowa State University extension wildlife specialist Adam Janke said in a recent interview with IPR News.

“It is not unexpected that we would face additional highly pathogenic avian influenza challenges in Iowa given that the fall migration is underway, and many other states have recently announced confirmed cases."
Mike Naig, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture

States surrounding Iowa, including Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin, have confirmed new cases of bird flu in poultry and backyard flocks this month. Illinois has not reported a new case this fall.

Waterfowl and shorebirds have been known to carry the virus in a less severe form, which can mutate to more severe in poultry. But in a recent interview with IPR News, Rachel Ruden, the state wildlife veterinarian with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, said highly pathogenic avian influenza has been circulating in wild birds, sickening them and causing seizure-like activity and even death.

Iowa, the nation’s top egg producer and seventh largest turkey producer, has been hit harder by bird flu than any other state this year. More than 13 million commercial and backyard birds in Iowa have died from the disease or been killed to stop its spread. Bird flu has affected more than 47 million commercial and backyard birds across the U.S., the worst outbreak in the country since 2015.

Katie Peikes is IPR's agriculture reporter