Nebraska today joined the list of Midwestern states battling the H5N2 avian flu virus, with an outbreak on a large layer chicken farm, while neighboring Iowa reported four more avian flu outbreaks on chicken and turkey farms.
The virus has struck a farm housing 1.7 million layer chickens in Dixon County in northeastern Nebraska, northwest of Sioux City, Iowa, the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced today. The area is not far from several northwestern Iowa counties that have been battling H5N2.
APHIS said increased deaths in the chicken flock prompted initial testing by the South Dakota State University Animal Disease Research & Diagnostic Laboratory and confirmatory testing by the APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa. As in other outbreaks, officials quarantined the farm and made plans to destroy the surviving chickens as a precaution.
At the Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA), Director Greg Ibach said in a statement, "Unfortunately, Nebraska has joined a long list of states currently dealing with highly pathogenic avian influenza. We are working closely with our counterparts at USDA APHIS, as well as all of our Nebraska state agency partners to ensure we are following proper protocols to address this situation. The goal is to quarantine the flock and attempt to control and contain the virus as quickly as possible."
Ibach said officials will visit all sites that have poultry within a 6.2-mile radius of the outbreak to alert owners and monitor flocks for the disease.
Nebraska is the 10th-ranked egg-producing state, with about 9.45 million hens, according to an Omaha World-Herald story today. That number suggests that the 1.7 million chickens on the affected farm account for roughly a sixth of the state's layer hens.
Besides being next-door to hard-hit Iowa, where more than 20 million chickens have been lost, Nebraska borders South Dakota, which has had several outbreaks. Another near neighbor is Minnesota, which has had 85 outbreaks, most of them on turkey farms.
APHIS noted that Nebraska, like South Dakota, lies in the Central Flyway for migratory birds. Migratory waterfowl are assumed to have carried the H5N2 virus to the Midwest, but exactly how it is getting into poultry barns has not been determined.
Iowa count reaches 49
The four new avian flu outbreaks in Iowa raise the state's total to 49, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) announced today. One of the outbreaks has been confirmed as H5N2, and three are H5 events with confirmation of H5N2 awaited.
Two of the new outbreaks mark the 14th and 15th events in Buena Vista County, one of them on a layer pullet farm and the other on a turkey farm. They are listed as H5 outbreaks, and flock sizes have not yet been reported.
A third outbreak, also listed as H5 for now, is the first event in Lyon County in the state's northwestern corner. It involves a commercial laying operation where the number of birds is being determined, the IDALS said.
The other outbreak, already confirmed as H5N2, is the fourth event in Osceola County and involves a broiler farm with an estimated 700 birds, officials said.
Other states that have had H5N2 outbreaks on commercial poultry farms are Arkansas, Missouri, North Dakota, and Wisconsin, according to the USDA. In addition, a few backyard flocks have been attacked by the virus in Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Montana, Oregon, and Washington.
News of Nebraska's first H5N2 outbreak comes 1 day after the virus's close relative, H5N8, first surfaced in the Midwest, in a backyard poultry flock in Indiana. The H5N2 virus is believed to be a product of mixing of the Asian-origin H5N8 virus with H5 viruses from North American wild birds.
May 12 APHIS statement
May 12 NDA statement
May 12 World-Herald story
May 12 Iowa press release