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Bird Flu: What You Need to Know


Bird flu is trending on facebook tonight.

But truthfully, it’s been “trending” in my thoughts and prayers for weeks now.

Ever since the first outbreak in the Midwest, which took place on a breeder farm for the hatchery we use, I’ve thought about bird flu (or highly pathogenic avian influenza – HPAI) almost hourly.

The first two weeks, I barely slept.  I had a constant tension headache and my jaw hurt from clenching my teeth. Why? Because HPAI is unlike any other disease for poultry.  There is no vaccine and no treatment.  Infected poultry show few symptoms, and after a 21 day incubation period, die quickly.  Entire barns can be wiped out in a matter of hours. And to keep the disease from spreading, all remaining birds on the affected farms are euthanized as soon as possible.

An outbreak of bird flu is absolutely devastating for the farmers involved. It is heartbreaking to see livestock die, especially when we work so hard to care for them. It is truly a poultry farmer’s worst nightmare, and my prayers are with those who have been affected.

But there’s no reason you, the consumer, should be worried right now. Here’s what you need to know:

bird flu

  • There is very little concern that this will affect human health. The virus can mutate to affect humans, but anyone who has been in contact with infected flocks is being monitored by public health officials, and none have contracted the flu.
  • There is no food safety risk associated with poultry or eggs because of HPAI.  ALL flocks are routinely tested for bird flu, and infected poultry does NOT enter the food chain. (Eggs, however, are safe after they have been pasteurized, so the eggs from affected farms may enter the food supply after pasteurization.)
  • Although there have been more than 40 outbreaks in commercial turkey flocks, avian influenza has only affected 1% of the turkeys raised in the US. Turkey prices have not been affected at this time.
  • Avian influenza has affected approximately 1% of the egg laying hens in the US. Egg prices are not expected to rise from this latest outbreak.

If you raise chickens or other poultry, you need to be prepared. Find out how to protect your flock here.

And keep America’s poultry farmers in your prayers, especially those affected by this disease. Although there is no food safety risk and minimal human health risk, it is absolutely devastating for those directly affected by the outbreak.

(For up to date info on outbreaks, visit the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service website.)

Would you like to comment?

  1. Well written. As the bride on an independent farrow to finish pork producer, we lived through the stress of waiting and praying as the PED virus swept through Iowa and about every barn around our farm became positive last year. We did not get the virus and are still working with our 200 sows and their offspring. I'll wish for you to have just a much luck as we did.