Avian flu discovered in local farms

163,000 birds destroyed at two locations in Kingsbury County


The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has reported that 12 counties and 21 locations in South Dakota have been confirmed with Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). The impact is more than 970,000 birds in commercial flocks of turkeys and chickens in South Dakota. The spread of bird flu in Kingsbury County has affected two commercial flocks, one with 124,000 layers and another flock with 39,000 turkeys. The majority of outbreaks in South Dakota have impacted commercial turkey flocks, with two exceptions, one flock was laying hens, and another was a flock of mixed species.

Avian influenza, or bird flu, has been around for a while and is similar to the HPAI. HPAI is usually more concerning and extremely contagious among commercial flocks.

HPAI is very rapid. Once it gets into a flock, it's going to be nearly 100% mortality, probably within 48 hours,” according to Dr. Mendel Miller, DVM, Assistant State Veterinarian for South Dakota.

HPAI rarely affects humans, but if contracted, the symptoms would be fever, cough, sore throat and a runny nose, similar to a normal flu. There are usually less than 1,000 cases per year in the United States. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has no reported human cases of avian influenza so far this year in the United States, there is one confirmed case of human avian flu reported in the United Kingdom.

Currently, the USDA has identified 118 flocks in the United States. Twelve of those locations reside in 12 South Dakota counties, Kingsbury, Beadle, McPherson, Spink, Clark, Brule, Bon Homme, Charles Mix, Edmunds, Jerauld, Hanson and Hutchinson. The number of birds depopulated in South Dakota is over 970,000 with 163,000 in Kingsbury County alone. Reports indicate that Minnesota and Iowa have affected flocks, too. Now, Iowa is feeling the most impact of these outbreaks. A total of 22.8 millions birds have been depopulated so far across 24 states.

The exact vector of spread for the HPAI is still not identified, but it is likely spread from migrating birds, as some of them have been found to be infected, also.

Most facilities that house large commercial flocks implement various biosecurity standards, so the spread from outside the facility to inside would be difficult, unless there was a breach or breakdown in the facility’s biosecurity plan.

According to Miller, if a commercial flock has a higher-than-normal rate of mortality, several samples of the flock would be swabbed and tested. It requires multiple positive results before a flock would be depopulated.

“With avian influenza, if one has it, they'll all have it. It's very contagious,” said Miller.

If a flock has to be depopulated, American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and USDA guidelines would be followed. The same guidelines would be used for disposing of carcasses. The facilities would have to be disinfected and then quarantined for 14 days. Before it was put back in service, several samples would be acquired and tested to verify the pathogen was no longer present.

In 2015, a similar outbreak occurred with HPAI.

“It depends on where you're at,” said Miller. “2015 was very severe in Iowa and Minnesota. They have not had a lot of cases so far. In South Dakota, we've had almost double the cases than we did in 2015 already.”

He also said it would be hard to predict the course of the disease and whether numbers would rise or fall. Right now, we are experiencing an upward trend.


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