Another Avian Flu Case Detected

The Kansas Department of Agriculture confirmed Monday the 15th case of avian influenza since Dec. 1 amid a national outbreak that began in 2022 and spread to all but three states and more than 450 commercial flocks across the country.

Agriculture Secretary Mike Beam said proliferation of the pathogen was concentrated in Kansas at egg-laying facilities in McPherson and Rice counties and in gamebird facilities in Mitchell County. The most recent case in Kansas was identified Friday, Beam said.

Unlike an outbreak in 2015 that was driven by farm-to-farm transmission, he said, this round of avian flu appeared to be transmitted primarily by wild birds interacting with flocks. In most cases, entire commercial and backyard flocks at an infected location must be euthanized.

“The industry has taken significant action to attempt to slow the ongoing spread of this disease to protect the rest of the nation’s flock,” Beam said. “Until this winter, Kansas hadn’t had any positive cases since the spring of 2023. The fall brought a resurgence nationwide, including in our neighboring states, so we expected to see positive cases in Kansas.”

Beam said the state Department of Agriculture had a role in euthanizing infected flocks through “approved, humane methods” and in the safe disposal of carcasses to curtail spread to other flocks. Pace of that slaughter was a key to reducing loss of animals and minimizing disruption of poultry farms, he said.

“Quickly eliminating infected birds reduces the amount of virus in the environment, minimizes the risk of the disease spreading to and killing other birds, and reduces amount of time that birds suffer the effects of the disease,” Beam said.

In testimony to the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, the agriculture secretary said a contributing factor in spread of avian influenza was the presence of backyard flocks in which birds were allowed to roam property and more easily came in contact with migratory birds.

Small residential operations were less likely to adopt biosecurity methods typical of commercial facilities invested in limiting movement of pathogens from farm to farm, Beam said.

“We’re most vulnerable in what we call backyard flocks,” he said. “There’s a lot of backyard flocks that we probably don’t know about that’s had the disease.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture characterized Highly Pathogenic Avian influenza, or PHAI, as a “serious disease and requires rapid response because it is highly contagious and often fatal to chickens.”

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Story by Tim Carpenter / Kansas Reflector