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Bird Flu Claims 5.5 Million More Chickens in US

Add 5.5 million more chickens to the list of avian victims suffering from the bird-flu outbreak that’s sweeping through US poultry farms at the worst rate in three decades.

Early testing at the Iowa facility housing the commercial laying hens in Buena Vista County shows that birds are probably infected with the highly pathogenic strain of the virus, the state’s department of agriculture said in an e-mailed statement Thursday. Another four flocks also probably have the disease, adding to the 12 cases that have already been announced, the agency said.

The bird-flu outbreak is starting to reach alarming levels as it spread through flocks across Iowa, the biggest US egg producer, and Minnesota, No. 1 for turkeys. At stake is the roughly $48 billion made annually from poultry and eggs in the US, government figures released Thursday show. American farms are stepping up clean-up efforts and Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton declared a state of emergency as poultry buyers from Europe to Asia to place restrictions on American shipments.

Rembrandt Foods, based in Spirit Lake, Iowa, owns the flock of 5.5 million hens that Iowa reported as probably having bird flu, Jonathan Spurway, the vice president of marketing, said in a telephone interview.

While the disease started popping up in wild birds and waterfowl in December along the Pacific Coast, the rate of reported cases has vastly accelerated since March as commercial flocks in the Midwest began to report infections. On Monday, Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture estimated that roughly 9.5 million chickens in the state of Iowa were confirmed positive for the virus or were presumed to have it. That’s about 16 per cent of the state’s egg-laying hens.

The outbreak has left more than 15 million birds in its wake across the country, according to the US Department of Agriculture. That figure doesn’t include the probable cases that Iowa reported on Thursday. The disease has mainly impacted turkeys and egg hens, while broiler chickens, those that end up on the dinner table, have largely been spared.

Bloomberg News, edited by ESM

 

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