Quantcast

Nearly 40 Million Birds Dead as Avian Flu Ravages Midwest

Food

The devastating avian influenza sweeping the Midwest has forced the mass slaughter of nearly 40 million diseased chicken, turkey and wild birds in order to contain the outbreaks, according to the latest grisly numbers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

According to the USDA, since it was first detected in December 2014, there have been several ongoing highly pathogenic avian influenza cases along the Pacific, Central and Mississippi Flyways (or migratory bird paths). The strains in particular, H5N2 and H5N8, have been found in wild birds, as well as backyard and commercial poultry flocks.

This is the worst epidemic of bird flu in the nation's history. Egg-producers in Iowa, the top egg-producing state, have been hit the hardest, with a shocking 40 percent Iowa's egg-laying hens dead or to be euthanized.

In a report from Harvest Public Media (via NPR), while some local incinerators are burning dead birds 24 hours a day, other landfills have been turning away the carcasses for fear of contamination and neighbors' complaints. Listen here:

"I've been in the landfill business probably 26 years, and I've never ever seen this kind of volume," said Randy Oldenkamp, director of the Northwest Iowa Area Solid Waste Agency, in the report. "And I hope I never do again."

Read page 1

Prices for eggs in the Midwest have climbed at a rate of 5 percent a day for the past week as supplies dwindle, according to the Associated Press. A dozen large eggs reportedly starts at $1.88, which is 58 percent higher than the prior month. Chicken and turkey sales have also been affected.

Agricultural economist said that bird flu could cost nearly $1 billion to Iowa and Minnesota, the two states hit the hardest. Minnesota, the top turkey state, has lost more than 8 million birds.

The USDA told TIME that some of the viruses currently seen in the U.S. outbreaks originated in Asia and spread via migratory fowl.

Research is still being done to see how the virus has spread so rapidly. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told Harvest Public Media that the poultry industry is in uncharted territory. The virus is "doing things we've never seen it do before," so scientists' understanding is very limited, he said.

"Influenza viruses have thought in the past to be transmitted by birds to birds in close contact and that it was only through that kind of transmission that we need to be concerned," Osterholm added. "Now we surely have a very dynamic situation in the Midwest. It's also a situation where we no longer can assume it's just migratory birds."

The USDA also noted that while "the high number of birds slaughtered during this outbreak is hard for farmers involved, but 30 million is still considered a small percentage of the overall U.S. poultry population." According to the agency, in 2014 the U.S. poultry industry produced 8.54 billion broilers, 99.8 billion eggs and 238 million turkeys.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the risk of human transmission is low. For you to stay safe, the CDC has told the general public to avoid contact with wild birds and chickens or turkeys that appear sick or have died.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Watch John Oliver’s Hilarious Rant Exposing the Horrors of the Chicken Industry

McDonald’s Is Curbing Use of Antibiotics in Chicken, But Does It Go Far Enough?

10 Tips on Raising Backyard Chickens

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Arx0nt / Moment / Getty Images

By Taylor Jones, RD

Oats are a highly nutritious grain with many health benefits.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

Get ready to toast bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. National Pollinator Week is June 17-23 and it's a perfect time to celebrate the birds, bugs and lizards that are so essential to the crops we grow, the flowers we smell, and the plants that produce the air we breathe.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Alexander Spatari / Moment / Getty Images

It seems like every day a new diet is declared the healthiest — paleo, ketogenic, Atkins, to name a few — while government agencies regularly release their own recommended dietary guidelines. But there may not be an ideal one-size-fits-all diet, according to a new study.

Read More Show Less
Logging shown as part of a thinning and restoration effort in the Deschutes National Forest in Oregon on Oct. 22, 2014. Oregon Department of Forestry / CC BY 2.0

The U.S Forest Service unveiled a new plan to skirt a major environmental law that requires extensive review for new logging, road building, and mining projects on its nearly 200 million acres of public land. The proposal set off alarm bells for environmental groups, according to Reuters.

Read More Show Less
Maskot / Getty Images

By Kris Gunnars, BSc

It's easy to wonder which foods are healthiest.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Homes in Washington, DC's Brookland neighborhood were condemned to clear room for a highway in the 1960s. The community fought back. Brig Cabe / DC Public Library

By Teju Adisa-Farrar & Raul Garcia

In the summer of 1969 a banner hung over a set of condemned homes in what was then the predominantly black and brown Brookland neighborhood in Washington, DC. It read, "White man's roads through black men's homes."

Earlier in the year, the District attempted to condemn the houses to make space for a proposed freeway. The plans proposed a 10-lane freeway, a behemoth of a project that would divide the nation's capital end-to-end and sever iconic Black neighborhoods like Shaw and the U Street Corridor from the rest of the city.

Read More Show Less
Demonstrators outside a Republican presidential debate in Detroit in 2016. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Michigan prosecutors dropped all criminal charges against government officials involved in the Flint water crisis Thursday, citing concerns about the investigation they had inherited from the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) appointed by former Attorney General Bill Schuette, CNN reported.

Read More Show Less
Samara Heisz / iStock / Getty Images

New York state has joined California, West Virginia, Arizona, Mississippi and Maine in ending religious exemptions for parents who prefer not to vaccinate their children, The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less