Unlike outbreak in '15, this year's cases of avian flu may have more of an impact on Nebraska – Norfolk Daily News

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In 2015, when an avian flu outbreak swept across the United States — killing 50 million birds across 15 states — it was perhaps more of a curiosity than anything in Nebraska.
To be sure, for those Nebraskans involved in poultry production — including some large-scale turkey operations — the impact was significant and financially costly. But for many Nebraskans, a temporary spike in egg prices was the primary consequence of the outbreak.
Flash forward to 2022, as concerns about a repeat of a widespread bird flu problem continue, and it’s an entirely different story for Nebraska.
That’s because of the presence of Lincoln Premium Poultry, based in Fremont, and the more than 400 large-scale barns that dot eastern Nebraska. The poultry operations raise birds for the popular rotisserie chickens sold at Costco stores across the nation.
Numerous producers and farm families have come to rely on their poultry production for their livelihoods. So, any word of a possible avian flu outbreak is met with high degrees of interest.
On Feb. 9, it was announced that the virus infected a commercial turkey flock in Indiana. The 29,000 birds in the flock were killed to prevent the spread of the virus. Less than a week later, a second flock of 26,473 turkeys near the first infected farm was suspected of having the same virus.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture also has confirmed the presence of bird flu in a flock of commercial broiler chickens in Fulton County, Kentucky, and are awaiting results of a potential second case about 124 miles northeast in Webster County, Kentucky. A backyard flock of mixed species birds in northern Virginia also is positive for the virus.
If the avian flu is detected after testing, there’s no treatment. The birds are killed and removed in hopes of preventing further spread of the highly contagious virus.
The encouraging news is that the poultry industry and government officials say they have plans to more quickly stop the spread that were learned from 2015. Dr. Denise Heard, a poultry veterinarian and vice president of research for the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, said, “I feel positive that we can tackle this situation better.”
In the past, Nebraskans understandably were worried anytime the spread of a disease impacted cattle and swine herds. Now, poultry diseases need to be added to that list.
In 2015, the avian flu outbreak was deemed the most expensive animal health disaster in U.S. history, costing the government nearly $1 billion for the removal and disposal of infected birds and government indemnity payments to producers for the lost birds.
Hopes are pinned on that the spread of this year’s bird flu outbreak will be limited, and that lessons learned in 2015 help accomplish that.
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