It had been six months since the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported cases of the bird flu in commercial flocks. But that highly pathogenic problem has returned. Tests have confirmed the presence of bird flu in 134,200 turkeys in Sanpete County, Utah; 47,200 additional birds in Jerauld County, South Dakota; and 50,300 birds in Glacier, Montana.
The unfortunate reality is that producers can’t just isolate the infected birds until they get better. They will have to destroy all birds that were exposed.
Another problem is this transitory time of year for certain birds. Wild birds, who often don’t show symptoms of avian flu, can spread it to others when they migrate. “I don’t doubt that we will have more cases,” South Dakota State Veterinarian Beth Thompson told the Associated Press.
The USDA reported that during 2022, producers had to slaughter 58 million birds. Every state except for Hawaii, Louisiana and West Virginia were impacted. Iowa was the worst, with nearly a quarter of the birds impacted. The outbreak comes with a heavy cost to all: $660 million to taxpayers, an estimated $1 billion to farmers and price spikes for consumers (eggs nearly tripled for a while).
It’s very rare that humans contract avian influenza. But The Centers for Disease Control reported one suspected case in a Colorado resident in April who had been involved in culling a flock that was also believed to have been infected with the virus. The report shows that the person felt fatigued, isolated, rested and then recovered without any additional reports of humans getting ill.