ChickensEven before the recent avian influenza outbreak in Indiana, the U.S.D.A. began stockpiling up to 500 million doses of a new vaccine for bird flu.

Some Iowa poultry industry officials oppose vaccinating because of export market consequences.

Randy Olson, executive director of the Iowa Poultry Association, says it’s good to have that supply of vaccine if it’s needed, despite the concerns.

“None of us want to be in a position where we’re forced to make the decision about vaccination because it certainly comes with a lot of complicating factors,” Olson says. “If we happen to have another break this spring, it’s good that U.S.D.A. is planning in advance.”

He says the biggest concern about vaccinating is with potential trade partners. “One of the considerations is clearly international markets,” Olson says. “If we vaccinate for avian influenza in the U.S. and we’re not able to maintain regionality, then foreign countries will consider our poultry population to be endemic with avian influenza.”

Olson says instead of relying on vaccine, Iowa’s poultry producers are ramping up their biosecurity efforts to prevent the disease from reoccurring in the spring. “We certainly are planning for the spring,” Olson says. “Our farms are doing a great job of improving biosecurity, in some cases, making very expensive capital improvements to keep security on their farms and try to keep intruders like foreign birds out.”

A total of 77 poultry operations statewide had bird flu outbreaks last year and more than 31 million chickens and turkeys were wiped out in Iowa, which was by far the worst-hit state. Losses in Iowa are estimated near one-billion dollars.

Operations in 14 other states were also infected, claiming 50 million birds and more than $3 billion.

(Reporting by Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton)