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Concerns on the rise as bird flu spreads throughout the U.S.

Published: Mar. 22, 2022 at 4:13 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - The Avian flu, better known as bird flu, is surging once again across the United States.

Bird flu is devastating flocks of wild birds as well as commercial chickens, broilers, and turkeys in South Dakota and Iowa.

In Iowa 6.3 million birds have been euthanized across four counties. One facility alone in Buena Vista County accounted for 5.3 million hens. In South Dakota, the disease has spread to seven counties, leading to the destruction of nearly 200,000 birds.

The virus is highly contagious influenza that is deadly to birds.

“In just a matter of a couple of days it can wipe out an entire barn,” said South Dakota Assistant State Veterinarian, Mendel Miller.

When the disease begins to circulate, red flags go up instantly.

“Obviously, we’re very concerned, it’s impacting the industry and it’s impacting our South Dakota producers,” said Miller.

Miller says the current outbreak is similar to what happened in 2015 when millions of birds were impacted.

“It’s hitting the same kind of operations, it’s kind of the same time of year, and certainly having the same effects,” said Miller.

Dakota Layers, in Flandreau, was forced to put down its entire flock of 1.3 million birds because of that outbreak.

They’re doing everything in their power to prevent that from happening again by ramping up biosecurity.

“It’s very concerning how close it is, as well as the unknown of if anything will affect us or not,” Dakota Layers General Manager Jason Ramsdell said.

The current strain has spread from east to west in the U.S. According to Miller, eight South Dakota producers have been hit by the outbreak. The largest impact has been in Charles Mix County, where two facilities have lost a combined 85,000 birds.

“It’s heartbreaking to know that another producer somewhere has had to do that, they have had to euthanize their entire flock,” said Ramsdell.

While the illness is fatal for birds, the disease is monitored closely, and Miller is assuring shoppers poultry on grocery store shelves is safe.

“All the poultry and products are quarantined immediately upon diagnosis of the virus, they don’t come off of that location, so they never enter the food chain,” said Miller.

The CDC says bird flu is not a human threat and no cases have been reported in humans in connection to the current outbreak.

However, experts in the field stress it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and know where you’ve been so the disease doesn’t get spread through your clothes or car’s tires, unknowingly.

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