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Bird flu spreads in Iowa, but not locally

BY GRACE PATERAS | APRIL 28, 2015 5:00 AM

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H5N2 avian influenza is spreading across Iowa, and Iowa Department of Agriculture officials announced Monday that four more Iowa farms have been potentially infected.

A report on Monday from the Agriculture Department found that four commercial poultry farms in Osceola, O’Brien, and Sioux Counties — all in northwestern Iowa — initially tested positive for H5N2.

Dustin Vande Hoef, the communications director for the agency, said officials have not been notified of any potential outbreaks in eastern Iowa, including Johnson County.

“This isn’t a human-health concern, but it’s a significant concern for domestic poultry — and domestic poultry farmers — and we’re working to protect animals in the state,” he said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Iowa Department of Public Health consider the risk to people from the highly pathogenic avian influenza H5 infections — found in wild birds, backyard flocks, and commercial poultry — to be low.

Johnson County Supervisor Rod Sullivan said the county does not have large poultry operations, and most poultry farmers have backyard farms.

“Johnson County does not have any confined feeding operations where we have anywhere near that number of birds,” he said. “We simply don’t have that here.”

One farmer with 400 hens and 400 less-than-a-year old chickens, otherwise known as pullets, is not concerned about the disease spreading to his farm.

Doug Darrow, the owner of Rapid Creek Ranch near Oxford, Iowa, said he’s keeping an eye on the flock but isn’t worried.

“Unless someone brings disease in or its transferred by other birds, I don’t think we’ll have an issue,” he said.

Though there are not large operations in Johnson County, Sullivan said there is still reason for concern.

“All producers are concerned because once that bird flu starts to spread, they’ve got to be worried [about their poultry],” he said. “I know producers are taking all kinds of precautions so it doesn’t spread to them.”

Vande Hoef said farmers with concerns have options to reduce the spread. Some include keeping animals indoors, wearing shoe covers to prevent outside feces from interacting with poultry, and not sharing farming equipment.

“[Farmers can] try to keep things clean and try not to track things into poultry operations or to their flock,” Vande Hoef said.

It takes only days for officials to go through the sampling and lab testing process to initially test farms.

This past weekend, when Agriculture Department of officials were notified there could be a possibility of infection, results were announced by Monday.

Further lab results from the National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames are still pending.


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