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Bird flu found in two northwest Iowa turkey facilities

Amy Mayer
IPR file
More than 15 million commercial and backyard birds in Iowa have been killed this year because of bird flu.

About 140,000 turkeys are being destroyed after bird flu hit two commercial turkey sites in northwest Iowa.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services confirmed positive cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza in commercial turkey flocks in Cherokee and Sac counties, the Iowa Department of Agriculture said Tuesday. They are the 25th and 26th detections of bird flu in Iowa this year.

Don McDowell, a spokesman for IDALS, said the Cherokee County site has 100,000 turkeys and the Sac County site has 40,000 turkeys. The turkeys are being depopulated to contain the virus. Cherokee and Sac counties are neighbors, but McDowell said the state agriculture department doesn’t have an answer on if the virus spread from one farm to another.

“Given how this virus has spread to domestic flocks from migrating and wild bird populations, it continues to be a major concern,” McDowell wrote in an email. “Because the epidemiological investigation and virus sequencing is not yet completed, we don’t have yet enough information.”

Wild birds have been blamed for the outbreak of bird flu across the country this year, as they migrated north to their breeding grounds in the spring. Cases have surfaced in Iowa and other states in the fall, as wild birds migrate 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.

It’s unclear how the virus is getting from wild birds into barns and backyard enclosures. Agriculture officials in Iowa have urged producers and backyard flock owners to keep their birds away from wild birds.

This year, more than 15 million commercial and backyard birds in Iowa have died from the virus or been killed to contain it. Iowa has had more domestic birds impacted than any other state. According to the USDA, more than 52 million commercial and backyard birds have been affected by bird flu this year, which is more than the 2014-2015 outbreak.

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.