Bird Flu Spreads to Another State, Affecting Egg Prices—Here’s What to Know

Bird Flu Spreads to Another State, Affecting Egg Prices—Here’s What to Know

by Sue Jones
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The latest cases of bird flu, otherwise known as “highly pathogenic avian influenza” (HPAI), have been confirmed in Idaho. On Saturday, the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), announced that two non-commercial, backyard flocks were infected in Caribou County and Gooding County. The affected flocks have been quarantined and are being depopulated in order to mitigate the spread of the virus, and the USDA is continuing to work on detecting the virus in commercial poultry operations, live bird markets, and migratory wild bird populations throughout the country.

To date, HPAI has been detected in U.S. wild birds in 31 states, and in poultry in 26 states. The current U.S. outbreak—which has mainly affected wild aquatic birds, commercial poultry, and backyard or hobbyist flocks in the East Coast, the South, and the Midwest—started in early January this year. These are the first detections of bird flu in the country since 2016. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 27 million poultry have been affected. There have been 189 outbreaks so far, making it one of the worst bird flu outbreaks in U.S. history.

As of April 6th, the USDA announced that the outbreak has affected around 5% of the table egg laying flock. The losses to egg-laying flocks have led to producers desperately racing to meet market demands for eggs and egg products, with egg prices increasing as a result. The average price of a dozen eggs is now close to $3.00, up from $1.60 at the beginning of the year, according to the USDA’s national egg report.

According to the CDC, HPAI infects the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts of birds. The virus can rapidly spread through flocks of poultry, resulting in high mortality rates. Symptoms in poultry can include a lack of energy, reduced appetite, purple discoloration or swelling of body parts, diarrhea, nasal discharge, reduced egg production, or sudden death. Per the CDC, the current bird flu outbreak is mainly considered to be an animal health issue. “Based on available epidemiologic and virologic information about these viruses, CDC believes that the risk to the general public’s health from current H5N1 bird flu viruses is low, however, some people may have job-related or recreational exposures to birds that put them at higher risk of infection,” the CDC said.

However, there have been human bird flu cases in the past, stemming from other avian influenza subtypes. In the U.S. as well as in other countries, past outbreaks of bird flu have been associated with illness and death in people. This is uncommon but can happen when infected birds shed the virus in their saliva, mucus, and feces, and people then touch or inhale those viral particles. This can lead to symptoms including conjunctivitis, fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, shortness of breath, and more, according to the CDC.

Bird owners are advised to report ill birds or unusual bird deaths to state or federal officials through their state veterinarian, or by phoning APHIS’ free number at 1-866-536-7593. Additional details regarding biosecurity for backyard flocks can be found on their website.


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