The Iowa Department of Agriculture announced three new probable cases and one confirmed case bird flu Tuesday. They include the 14th and 15th cases in Buena Vista County, the first in Lyon County, and the fourth case in Osceola county.
Work continues on the disposal of the millions of chickens and turkeys infected with the bird flu. Iowa Agriculture Secretary, Bill Northey, says his department and the U.S.D.A. are helping the facilities safely handle the animals.
“It is a challenge being able to manage all of those sites, but there is depopulating going on. Some farms are completely depopulated, some have just started. Some farms have handled most of the dead birds in a disposal method, a lot of them are still going yet,” according to Northey. The sheer number of birds is the biggest issue with some 21-22 million chickens in laying houses. “Another 600,000 pullets that were growing up to be layers in layer houses. And then the numbers that we have are somewhere around 750,000 turkeys, but we know we have four barns there that I think we don’t have final numbers on — which should take us to around 900,000 — with the farms that we know of,” Northey says.
He says each site is different when it comes to dealing with the birds. “We’re seeing all different methods used,” Northey says. That includes composting, which happens in the buildings for turkeys, they are some that are buried on the farm and some are incinerated or heated. He says more incinerators are coming to help handle the material.
Many of the animals are being sent to a landfill. “There are several landfills that are interested, the D.O.T. will manage the route,” Northey explains. “The landfills are in conversation with U.S.D.A. right now about how they can safely take that material.” Experts say warmer weather tends to slow down the avian influenza, but things have been cooler lately in Iowa. Northey says they are hoping things will warm up and that will help kill off the virus.
“Even when we get some warm weather — and we’ve had some on and off the last few days or weeks — even when we get that, we still may see farms that break. And they may’ve been exposed before that warm weather came and it may not be that that warm weather stops this, it just may be that it lessons the likelihood that it’s able to move and cause issues in other places,” Northey says. The governor declared a state of emergency to help deal with the bird flu outbreak. That declaration is set to expire on May 31st.