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Iowa declares H5N2 emergency

By Staff | May 6, 2015

Dustin Vande Hoef

DES MOINES – (AP) With 24 sites across 11 counties in Iowa, Gov. Terry Branstad has declared the H5N2 avian influenza outbreak a state of emergency across Iowa.

“Typically, a farmer will notice birds that are a little sick or not in good condition,” said Dustin Vande Hoef, communications director for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. “He might also notice an increased mortality rate.”

Avian influenza is deadly to birds, but Vande Hoef noted this strain – H5N2 – does not infect humans.

“We haven’t had any evidence of anyone getting sick at this point,” he said.

According to the Iowa Department of Agriculture website on Monday morning 20 million birds are known to be affected in either confirmed or probable cases.

Iowa currently has the highest number of poultry impacted by this disease, though H5N2 avian influenza has been in 17 states.

“Minnesota has had significantly more cases,” Vande Hoef said. “They have had over 40 cases, primarily turkey facilities. We’ve had more animals, because of the large laying operations.

“But it’s been pretty widespread. Minnesota is the No. 1 turkey state in the nation, and we’re the No. 1 egg state.”

Vande Hoef noted this strain began on the West Coast and has moved into the Midwest.

“They think it’s from wild water fowl,” he said. “They can have the disease and not get sick, but they’re moving and flying around.

“Their manure can contain the virus, and it gets tracked in and enters domestic flocks.”

To protect domestic poultry from the disease. Vande Hoef noted farmers are practicing vigilant biosecurity.

“They’re focused on that,” he said. “They’re looking at their barns and making sure wild birds can’t get in.

“They’re having employees and everyone clean their shoes before entering each barn, and washing and disinfecting all materials and trucks.”

If a case of H5N2 avian influenza is found, the entire population at that facility needs to be depopulated, because of how contagious it is.

Vande Hoef noted that while it depends on how long it takes to depopulate the birds, clean and disinfect the facility and prove the virus is eradicated from the facility, the time frame is “certainly in the order of months before they can be operational again.”

While there have been other cases of avian influenza around the country, this is the largest case for several years.

“There was a case in Texas a few years ago, and a big case on the east coast in the 1980s,” Vande Hoef said, “But this is the largest over the last few years.”

As a result of the mass depopulation necessary to eradicate the disease, Vande Hoef said this outbreak “has impacted our trade and exports.”

“There has been lots of talk of prices,”he said. “It’s significant. There could be some impact on prices.

“We’re still waiting to see how it will play out, but there is the potential.”

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