Poultry producers in Iowa are again on-guard for avian influenza after a wild duck in Montana was recently diagnosed with the illness. Iowa had more losses than any other state after a bird flu outbreak in 2015.

The USDA’s chief veterinarian, Dr. Jack Shere, says producers statewide need to be watchful for any problems in their flocks.

Dr. Shere says, “The fact that this strain is being maintained in the wild bird population, maybe not at a high level, but that it’s out there, tells us and tells our poultry producers you better be vigilant, you better be on your biosecurity, you better be looking out for this and you’d better be watching your birds very carefully for any signs of sickness.”

Shere says ramping up biosecurity is one answer but that’s hard to do after an outbreak is already underway.

“Many times in these outbreaks, you’re behind the eight ball when you find it and you’re chasing and tracing behind where infection has already occured,” Shere says. “The best thing you can do is cordon it off and try to depopulate the animals quickly, which is what we found out in 2015.”

A large bird flu outbreak was reported recently in South Korea and 30-million birds were destroyed, boosting demand for the export of eggs from Iowa producers. It’s believed the disease is spread by migrating wild waterfowl like geese and ducks.

Given the latest case in Montana, Shere says the USDA is continuing to monitor for the virus.

“Most of the samples that we take are hunter harvest survey testing,” he says. “We have a blanketed plan that blankets the high poultry producing states in the United States with samples, a certain number per state and we use that plan to test. We do also test if there’s a large bird die-off.”

During the 2015 bird flu outbreak, cases were confirmed at 77 Iowa poultry operations in 18 counties. It resulted in the destruction of more than 31-million birds and an economic loss to the state of $1.2 billion dollars.