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An outbreak of bird flu infects 103,000 turkeys at the Cherokee County facility

The second bird flu outbreak in a week was reported Sunday, with nearly 103,000 turkeys infected in northwestern Iowa’s Cherokee County.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture reported Tuesday, May 28, that an egg facility housing 4.2 million laying hens was infected with highly pathogenic bird flu.

On Sunday, the agency announced that 102,891 turkeys in a commercial operation had been infected.

The birds at both facilities will be destroyed to prevent the highly contagious virus from spreading. The disease is fatal to domestic birds, believed to be infected by migrating wild birds that often do not appear sick.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds issued a disaster declaration for Cherokee County on Sunday. The proclamation allows the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Iowa Homeland Security and other agencies “to assist with tracking and monitoring, rapid detection, containment, removal and disinfection,” according to a news release.

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The spread of bird flu was dormant by 2024

The recent outbreaks in Iowa are the first since December, when a backyard flock became infected. The outbreak also comes after the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced in March that the virus had crossed from poultry to cattle. Cases of bird flu were discovered in dairy herds in Texas and Kansas.

The contagious disease has been discovered in cows in Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio and South Dakota. Unlike domestic birds, infected dairy cows can recover.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday, May 30, that a third person had been diagnosed with bird flu. The person was the first to experience “more typical symptoms of acute respiratory illness associated with influenza virus infection.” Two other workers reported mild eye infections. At least in humans, there was close cooperation with infected dairy herds.

USDA data shows that Iowa poultry producers have lost 23.3 million birds to the disease since the outbreak began in 2022. The virus has killed 96.6 million birds nationwide, the agency says.

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Beef, dairy and poultry are safe to eat, officials say

Eggs, dairy and beef are still safe to eat in the United States, state and federal officials said. Milk from infected cows is being diverted from the food supply, according to the Food and Drug Administration. The milk pasteurization process, used for the vast majority of milk, ‘kills harmful bacteria and viruses’.

The state agency said no dairy herds in Iowa have been infected with highly pathogenic bird flu. Employees are encouraged to take precautions to limit transmission.

Dairy and poultry producers are required to report possible cases to government officials.

Donnelle Eller covers agriculture, environment and energy for the Register. Reach her at [email protected] or 515-284-8457.