Iowa Governor Terry Branstad declared a state of emergency because of Iowa’s outbreak of bird flu. The infections will lead to the destruction of millions of chickens and turkeys as officials receive new authority to take preventative measures.
Iowa is now the third state to declare the bird flu epidemic an emergency. The first two, Minnesota and Wisconsin, issued declarations back in April, according to Reuters.
The New York Times reports that in Iowa about 17 million chickens and turkeys are dead, dying, or will be killed, which is about 27 percent of the state’s 60 million egg-laying chickens.
In total, authorities have discovered about 21 cases of the H5 strain of bird flu, spreading across 10 counties. The farms include a commercial egg operation in Buena Vista County that housed 5.5 million chickens. Once officials confirm a case of the avian flu in a farm, all poultry birds have to be killed to prevent the spread of the disease.
Governor Branstad said, “This is a magnitude much greater than anything we’ve dealt with in recent modern times.”
He explained in a statement that the state of emergency was the best way to tackle the bird flu.
“While the avian influenza outbreak does not pose a risk to humans, we are taking the matter very seriously and believe declaring a state of emergency is the best way to make all resources available. We’ll continue our work, as we’ve been doing since the first outbreak in Buena Vista County, in hopes of stopping the virus’ aggressive spread throughout Iowa.”
Iowa provides about 20 percent of all the eggs consumed in the U.S., making it America’s leading producer.
Nationally, the poultry death toll could rise to 21 million.
The governor’s emergency declaration will start disaster procedures that will authorize state workers to help dispose of dead poultry and assist in disinfection. USA Today reports it will also authorize movement restrictions including checkpoints, waive restrictions to allow for more efficient carcass disposal, and temporarily suspend regulatory provisions for commercial truckers hauling away the infected birds.
The bird flu poses only a low risk to humans, but poultry exporters have been feeling a major sting from the outbreak.
The first bird flu case turned up in December of last year, prompting dozens of countries to impose import bans on U.S. poultry.
The Wall Street Journal reports the last devastating outbreak of bird flu happened back in the 1980s when roughly 17 million poultry birds were killed nationally.
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