Please disable your Ad Blocker to better interact with this website.

IDALS briefs legislators, public on NW Iowa HPAI cases

ChickenBy Bob Eschliman
Editor

 

With four new “probable cases” of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in northwest Iowa, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship is now briefing the General Assembly and the general public about the outbreak.

IDALS held a press conference Monday afternoon in which officials explained the circumstances surrounding the four new cases. They are:

  • Osceola County 2 – Pullet farm with an estimated 250,000 birds.  Initial testing showed it positive for H5 avian influenza.  Additional confirmatory testing is pending from the APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames.
  • O’Brien County 1 – Commercial laying operation with an estimated 240,000 birds that has experienced increased mortality. Initial testing showed it positive for H5 avian influenza.  Additional confirmatory testing is pending from the APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames.
  • O’Brien County 2 – Commercial laying operation with an estimated 98,000 birds that has experienced increased mortality.  Initial testing showed it positive for H5 avian influenza.  Additional confirmatory testing is pending from the APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames.
  • Sioux County – Commercial laying operation with an estimated 1.7 million birds that has experienced increased mortality.  Initial testing showed it positive for H5 avian influenza.  Additional confirmatory testing is pending from the APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames.

These are in addition to the three earlier reported cases in Sac, Osceola, and Buena Vista counties. State officials have quarantined the facilities, and if the initial positive tests are confirmed, all birds at each location will be euthanized to prevent the spread of the disease.

The infections and loss of animals will likely drive up the price of eggs, chicken, and turkey. However, Angela Shaw, an associate professor of food science and human nutrition at Iowa State University and an ISU Extension food safety specialist, said that poultry and eggs are safe to eat.

“Consumers should feel safe to eat properly cooked and prepared meat and eggs from poultry,” she said. “Avian influenza is not a foodborne pathogen. It cannot be contracted from eating properly cooked poultry meat and eggs.”

HPAI is caused by an influenza virus that can infect poultry, such as chickens, turkeys, domestic ducks and geese, and is carried by migratory birds such as ducks, geese and shorebirds. Humans can be infected with the virus, but most cases involve very close direct contact with sick birds.

Shaw said the Food and Drug Administration maintains that properly cooked poultry and eggs pose no threat. She advised that consumers always should follow the FDA’s procedures for safe handling and cooking of poultry products:

  • Wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling raw poultry and eggs.
  • Clean cutting boards and other utensils with soap and hot water to keep raw poultry or eggs from contaminating other foods.
  • Cutting boards may be sanitized by using a solution of 1 tablespoon chlorine bleach and 1 gallon of water.
  • Cook poultry to an internal temperature of at least 170°F. Consumers can cook poultry to a higher temperature for personal preference.
  • Cook eggs until the yolks and whites are firm. Casseroles and other dishes containing eggs should be cooked to 170°F.
  • Use pasteurized eggs or egg products for recipes that are served using raw or undercooked eggs. Some examples of these kinds of dishes are Caesar salad dressing and homemade ice cream. Commercial mayonnaise, dressing and sauces contain pasteurized eggs that are safe to eat. Pasteurized eggs and egg products are available from a growing number of retailers and are clearly labeled.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Iowa Department of Public Health considers the risk to people from these HPAI infections in wild birds, backyard flocks and commercial poultry, to be low.  No human infections with the virus have ever been detected.

The United States has the strongest Avian Influenza surveillance program in the world.  USDA response plans require the following basic steps in response to avian influenza outbreaks:

  • Quarantine – restricting movement of poultry and poultry-moving equipment into and out of the control area;
  • Eradicate – humanely euthanizing the affected flock(s);
  • Monitor region – testing wild and domestic birds in a broad area around the quarantine area;
  • Disinfect – kills the virus in the affected flock locations; and
  • Test – confirm that poultry farms in the area are free of the virus.

IDALS is working directly in partnership with poultry workers at the affected facilities to ensure proper precautions are being taken. All bird owners, whether commercial producers or backyard flock owners, should continue to practice good biosecurity, prevent contact between their birds and wild birds, and report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to state/federal officials, either through their state veterinarian at (515) 281-5321 or through USDA’s toll-free number at 1-866-536-7593.

For more information about the HPAI outbreak in Iowa, visit the IDALS website by clicking here.