The last quarantine associated with a bird flu outbreak at a commercial flock has been lifted.
“This is good news,” Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig told Radio Iowa. “It’s a milestone day.”
Quarantines were issued to bar poultry and eggs from being shipped from 15 commercial sites where avian influenza had been confirmed. The last restriction — on a turkey operation in Bremer County — has been lifted after it met all cleaning, disinfection, and testing requirements. Naig cautioned, though, that this doesn’t mean the risk is gone.
“But what is does do is allow all of those affected sites to get back into normal production,” Naig said, “and it also allows us, with the response, to start to now look back and say: ‘What went well and what are some lessons we need to apply to a future response?'”
Iowa’s first case of bird flu was confirmed in February in a backyard flock of chickens and ducks in Council Bluffs. That site and three others where Iowans were raising birds in their backyards that were sickened with bird flu are to remain empty for the rest of the summer.
“You really can’t clean those kind of sites,” Naig said, “but you can go in and disinfection and test commercial sites and that’s why this is an important day and we make a distinction between a commercial site and a backyard flock.”
Two commercial facilities each had five million birds that were killed to prevent the virus from spreading. A total of 13.3 million birds were euthanized in Iowa due to this year’s outbreak, “and that represented 40% or so of the total number of birds that were impacted nationwide,” Naig said.
The 2015 bird flu outbreak impacted 77 commercial poultry and egg laying sites in Iowa compared to 15 this year. Naig said it does not appear there was farm-to-farm movement of the virus due to better biosecurity measures.
“Our producers have learned a lot about how to keep the virus out their buildings and off of their farms and really track the movement of people and equipment,” Naig said. “…I think the second component of that was just a more effective, faster response on the part of the Iowa Department of Agriculture and the USDA. Those two things together made this a different outbreak.”
The executive director of the North Central Poultry Association said in a written statement that the lifting of the final quarantine is cause to celebrate the collective efforts from all involved. Avian influenza is highly contagious and while wild birds carry the virus without appearing to be ill, it is nearly always fatal to domesticated birds.