USDA Officials Planning for Worst-Case Scenerio for Bird Flu this Fall

Jul 21, 2015

USDA officials say they are planning for a worst-case scenario as there is a possibility of avian influenza returning this fall, when birds migrate south for the winter. 

Dr. Jack Shere with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service says it’s worrying that avian flu seems to be slowly moving east. This mean the virus could turn up in states that haven’t yet been affected.

"The major poultry states are beginning to plan on how they're going to deal with this," Shere says. "They're looking at their resources and their availability of different ways to deal with it."

The USDA is hiring 400 temporary employees for the fall. They will be deployed to poultry facilities infected by the virus.

Regarding cleanup from this spring's outbreak, Iowa officials say all birds have been euthanized at the 77 Iowa sites infected with avian influenza this year. And 59 of those facilities are completely finished with disposal.

Additionally, three sites are reportedly complete with both cleaning and disinfecting the infected buildings, and later this week a turkey farm in Calhoun County is also expected to finish that process.  

Secretary Bill Northey of the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship says now the majority of affected poultry producers are focusing on disinfecting their facilities.

"The disinfection in most cases will be done by head. The virus doesn't like heat," Northey says. "It starts to die at maybe 80 degrees. If we can get that building up to 100 degrees, keep it there serveral days, that is a very thorough disinfection process."

After the heating process, the building sits for 21 days. During that time samples are taken to make sure the avian flu virus is completely gone.

The recent avian flu outbreak is the largest and most expensive foreign animal disease event in U.S. history. Of the 48 million poultry affect, roughly two-thirds were in Iowa.

Next week the poultry industry will hold a conference on avian influenza in Des Moines. The agenda includes bio security, vaccinations, financial losses, and planning for the fall migration.