Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey says the destruction of turkeys on a Missouri farm is not an indication of the return of the deadly avian flu that devastated Iowa chicken and turkey farms last spring.
“The virus that went through Missouri is a different virus, and it’s a low pathogenic — meaning it is just making the birds sick – not killing them,” Northey explains. “But in that effort to make sure that nothing got out of hand, they went ahead and put those birds down.” Reports say the Missouri virus is the H5N1 strain, not the H5N2 which killed the birds in Iowa and other states last year.
Missouri agricultural officials say 39,000 turkeys were destroyed on a farm in the southwest area of the state. Northey says neither strain has been reported in our state this spring. “We’ve not seen any avian influenza yet in Iowa, but are certainly looking for it and are ready to handle it if it gets here,” Northey says. He says there’s more attention being given to flocks this spring as a result of the problems last year.
“Heavy surveillance everywhere, anybody who has a few sick birds, we want to hear about it,” Northey says. “We’ve had some birds that have gone in for testing. All those birds in Iowa — whether its turkeys or chickens — have come back negative to avian influenza.” Iowa had 75 confirmed bird flu sites in 18 counties last year and some 32 million birds had to be destroyed.
Northey says that experience led to a lot of changes and increased awareness so producers can react quickly if signs of the problem show up again this year. “Everybody is very engaged, so as soon as they see those sick birds in the morning we get a phone call and they send some birds into the diagnostic lab at Iowa State. And we’re going to get a quick read out if we see that disease again,” according to Northey. “
Hopefully we will miss that. And actually that’s another reason we like warm weather. Warm weather, I think, contributed to us being able to shut it down last year. It’s nice to get some warm weather again.” It’s estimated the avian flu outbreak last year cost the state $1.2 billion.