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Two more bird flu cases reported, including another flock of 1 million

In this Nov. 16, 2009 file photo, chickens stand in their cages at a farm near Stuart, Iowa.
Charlie Neibergall
After a quiet summer, cases of bird flu have been increasing in Iowa and other states as wild birds migrate south for winter.

Bird flu has hit Wright County for a second time this fall, causing the destruction of another large commercial egg-laying facility. It’s one of two new confirmations of bird flu that the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship reported Monday.

Approximately 1 million egg-laying hens are in the flock and “depopulation is ongoing,” to contain the virus, said Iowa Department of Agriculture spokesman Don McDowell.

A case of highly pathogenic avian influenza was confirmed in another Wright County commercial flock of 1.1 million egg-laying hens on Oct. 31. Asked if the two cases are connected by farm-to-farm spread of the virus or if the two operations belong to the same company, “We do not share details about the location or owners of the affected premises," McDowell said.

Bird flu was also confirmed Monday in a Louisa County backyard mixed species flock of 17 birds. McDowell said all of the birds in that flock have been destroyed to prevent the virus from spreading.

In a statement, Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig cautioned that wild birds’ fall migration is ongoing. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has attributed the spread of bird flu primarily to wild birds on their migration. Wild birds — especially waterfowl, like ducks and geese — can carry the virus and shed it through their saliva or excrement.

“Migration is expected to continue for several more weeks and whether you have backyard birds or a commercial poultry farm, bolstering your biosecurity continues to be the best way to protect your flock from this disease,” Naig said in a statement. “Our coordinated response team, comprised of state and federal professionals working with the affected producers, will continue to move swiftly to limit the spread of this virus.”

Since March, more than 15.4 million commercial backyard birds in Iowa have died from bird flu or been killed to contain the virus. Iowa, the nation’s top egg-producing state, has been hit harder by bird flu than any other state this year.

As of Monday afternoon, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service reported that more than 49 million commercial and backyard birds have been affected by bird flu this year. Iowa's two new cases were not included in the USDA’s data set around 5 p.m. Monday.

Katie Peikes was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio from 2018 to 2023. She joined IPR as its first-ever Western Iowa reporter, and then served as the agricultural reporter.