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Bird flu hits Buena Vista County for a seventh time since 2022

Amy Mayer
IPR file
Bird flu hit a commercial turkey facility in Buena Vista County, which has lost more birds to bird flu in the 2022-2023 bird flu outbreak than any other county in the nation.

Agriculture officials confirmed a new case of bird flu in northwest Iowa’s Buena Vista County on Wednesday, the first case of highly pathogenic avian influenza in Iowa poultry this year, in a county that’s lost more commercial birds because of the virus than any other county in the nation.

Don McDowell, a spokesman for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, said there are 27,650 commercial turkeys at the affected Buena Vista County site. The turkeys are being destroyed to control the spread of bird flu.

“We are encouraging poultry producers and those with backyard flocks to keep their biosecurity at a heightened level,” said McDowell in an email to IPR News.

It's the 31st case of bird flu confirmed in an Iowa commercial or backyard flock, since the bird flu outbreak started in the state last March. Two weeks ago, the state had lifted a ban on live bird exhibitions at fairs and other gatherings that it put into place in November.

All of the bird flu cases since December have been in northwest Iowa commercial turkey flocks. In an interview with IPR News last month, Gretta Irwin, the executive director of the Iowa Turkey Federation said the state’s turkey federation was “puzzled” by what was happening.

Experts have attributed the bird flu outbreak to wild birds that are migrating. They can carry the virus without showing any symptoms and shed it through droppings or saliva. Though experts have noted this particular strain of bird flu is causing wild birds to get sick, have seizures, or even die.

The disease has been blamed for a sharp spike in egg prices.

Iowa leads the nation in the number of chickens and turkeys killed because of the disease since last year: nearly 16 million. Nearly 5.5 million commercial chickens and turkeys have been killed in Buena Vista County – more than any other county in the nation.

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.