Iowa: 5 additional bird flu cases; chicken losses total 15M

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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Five more Iowa farms likely have been affected by the deadly H5N2 bird flu virus, including an egg-laying operation with 5.5 million chickens, Iowa agriculture officials said Thursday.

Midwest bird losses top 20 million turkeys and chickens, including 15 million of Iowa's egg-laying chicken flock, about a quarter of the state's 60 million hens.

Three of the farms involved in Thursday's announcement are in Buena Vista County, which now has a total of seven farms affected, according to Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey. One is the farm with 5.5 million chickens and the other two are turkey farms. Thursday's numbers also included an egg operation in Sioux County with 84,000 chickens and one in Clay County for which the number of chickens was not immediately released.

Companies that supply turkeys and eggs to consumers are beginning to respond, industry trade group officials said.

"One would assume that with the announcements in the last seven to 10 days that there's been a shock to the supply chain that is being worked through," said Randy Olson, executive director of the Iowa Poultry Association. "I have seen reports that suppliers have been working to arrange and meet needs through other sources but no severe abnormal effects have been reported to me."

Northey said farmers who own the farms will suffer long-term revenue loss since the birds must be euthanized and the barns disinfected and left idle for weeks before they can be reused.

"We don't know how many cases we'll end up with in either state or either species yet but there's going to be a challenge in repopulating these buildings," he said. "There will be some longer-term disruptions without knowing exactly what that is."

The U.S. government provides payments to farmers for birds that must be euthanized and to cover part of the cleanup. But farmers lose revenue from lost egg production and from the barns being idle.

Northey said the farms with millions of chickens to be killed present huge challenges to clean and it may be difficult to find enough birds to replace the egg layers.

In Iowa, seven counties now have reported cases, all concentrated in the northwest corner of the state

Minnesota on Thursday also reported three new presumed cases, adding an additional 35,000 turkeys to the state's total of almost 4 million birds killed or euthanized. Nineteen counties now have infected flocks.

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