SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Federal inspectors have confirmed the presence of bird flu in a commercial mixed species flock in southeastern South Dakota. An APHIS database says the flock in question had 63,530 birds.
Samples from the flock in Charles Mix County, which borders Nebraska, were tested at a national laboratory at South Dakota State University. The property was quarantined and the birds will be killed to prevent spread of the disease, the Agriculture Department said.
The USDA reported the outbreaks of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in South Dakota and Maryland over the weekend (March 5-6, 2022), adding concerns that wild birds are still spreading the disease across the U.S. Farmers have to kill their flocks after the disease is detected. Mexico, China, and Korea have imposed state-specific import restrictions in response.
The losses come at the same time that food prices are skyrocketing. Reuters says this is the worst outbreak of bird flu since 2015 when almost 50 million birds were killed. Most were turkeys and egg-laying chickens in the Midwest. The U.S. is the world’s largest producer and second-largest exporter of poultry meat.
The disease is already spread around Europe and is affecting birds in Africa, Asia, and Canada. Other outbreaks have already been reported in Missouri, Iowa, Delaware, Kentucky, the Carolinas, and Indiana. USDA says the H5N1 strain can be passed on to humans, though the risk to people is low.
The highly contagious virus was discovered in the U.S. a month ago in a commercial turkey flock in Indiana and was detected earlier this week in a backyard flock of chickens and ducks in western Iowa.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the recent bird flu detections do not present an immediate public health concern. No human cases of these avian influenza viruses have been detected in the United States. The proper handling and cooking of poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165 F kills bacteria and viruses.
Birds from the South Dakota flock will not enter the food system, the USDA said.
Avian influenza is an airborne respiratory virus that spreads easily among chickens through nasal and eye secretions, as well as manure. The virus can spread from flock to flock by wild birds, through contact with infected poultry, by equipment, and on the clothing and shoes of caretakers.