The Agriculture Department reported on Monday 18 outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) that claimed 1.2 million turkeys, broiler chickens, and pullets. More than 15.5 million birds in domestic flocks have died of HPAI or been culled in efforts to prevent the spread of the contagious viral disease in less than two months.
The current string of outbreaks, first reported on a turkey farm in southern Indiana on February 8, are the worst since an epidemic killed more than 50 million birds, mostly egg-laying hens and turkeys, in 2014 and 2015. The epidemic created egg shortages in grocery stores. So far this year, there have been 77 outbreaks in 18 states.
“High path” bird flu was confirmed at an additional five turkey farms in South Dakota in the new round of outbreaks. Also on the list were 417,000 broiler chickens in Butler County, Nebraska; 250,239 pullets in Franklin County, Iowa; and 240,000 turkeys in Meeker County, Minnesota.
South Dakota has the largest number of outbreaks in the nation this year, 17, and all but one were on turkey farms. Some 765,243 turkeys have died in the outbreaks.
As in the 2014-15 epidemic, Iowa, the No. 1 egg state, has had the largest losses — 6.6 million birds, including nearly 6.3 million laying hens. Wisconsin was second, with 2.76 million laying hens. Altogether, 10.7 million layers have died in the outbreaks, equal to 2.7% of the U.S. laying flock, according to USDA data.