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Bird flu hits Buena Vista County for a fifth time this year

Amy Mayer
IPR file
The Iowa Department of Agriculture on Friday announced the confirmation of a case of bird flu in a Buena Vista County flock of about 40,000 turkeys.

Bird flu has hit a Buena Vista County turkey flock, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship announced Friday. It’s the fifth outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in the county that has been hit harder by highly pathogenic avian influenza than any other county in the nation.

A spokesperson for the state’s department of agriculture said there are about 40,000 turkeys in the flock, which is being destroyed to stop the spread of the virus.

It’s the 24th case of bird flu in an Iowa commercial or backyard flock this year and the fifth in Buena Vista County, where nearly 5.5 million chickens and turkeys have died or been destroyed.

Four commercial turkey flocks and one egg-laying operation in the county have fallen prey to the viral disease, which can cause birds to feel lethargic, have difficulty breathing, or diarrhea, among other things. Domestic birds can even suddenly die when infected. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “bird flu viruses do not normally infect humans” and it is safe for consumers to eat chicken, turkey and other poultry products.

Agriculture officials have frequently reminded commercial and backyard flock owners to prevent contact between their birds and wild birds, which are on their migration south to their wintering grounds. Waterfowl, particularly ducks and geese, can carry the virus in their intestinal tract and shed it through their saliva or droppings.

Iowa has fared worse than any other state in this year’s bird flu outbreak. Nearly 15.5 million commercial and backyard birds have died from the virus or been culled. Last month, Iowa’s agriculture department issued an order for the second time this year canceling all live bird exhibitions at fairs and other gatherings after four new cases of bird flu were confirmed between late October and early November.

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.