Tag Archives: bird flu

Bird Flu Myths

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza seems to have led to an outbreak of misinformation and misunderstandings.  Here are some of the most common myths about the avian influenza outbreak.

Myth: Turkey prices will rise.

Truth: Prices for whole turkeys have risen 3% since mid-April. Boneless, skinless breast meat (used in lunch meat) prices have risen 10% in the same time period. Turkey remains a healthy, economical protein.

Myth: There will be a Thanksgiving turkey shortage.

Truth: While the bird flu outbreak has been devastating to farmers involved, it has only affected 2.5% of annual turkey production in the US. And most of the birds affected have been larger toms instead of the smaller hens that are traditionally marketed at Thanksgiving.

Myth: Poultry is unsafe to eat.

Truth: Every flock is tested for avian influenza before going to market. This practice was put in place long before this outbreak. There is no reason to worry about the safety of poultry in the wake of avian influenza.

Myth: Only big “factory farms” get bird flu.

Truth: As of 5/27/15 there have been 179 cases reported in the US, and 18 of them (10%) have been “backyard” flocks. Some experts believe there may be more backyard cases that have not been reported. Small, backyard flocks are less likely to be tested than larger flocks.

The turkey farms affected have all been family farms, many of which have been raising turkeys for generations. The farmers and industry have done everything possible to prevent an outbreak, and experts are unsure how the virus is spreading. When more research is available, changes may be made in housing or farm management to prevent a similar outbreak in the future.

These are a few of Iowa's turkey farmers - some of whom have been affected by the avian influenza outbreak.
These are a few of Iowa’s turkey farmers – some of whom have been affected by the avian influenza outbreak.

Farm Stress Management Resources

As Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza continues to infect more farms in Iowa, concern for farmers’ mental health has increased.

A disease outbreak can be emotionally devastating, and while farmers are dealing with the practical and financial implications, they may not be paying much attention to the emotional repercussions.

Iowa State University Extension offers a free “Iowa Concern Hotline” for help and referrals for dealing with stress.  A Live Chat feature on the website can also connect you with a stress counselor.

farm families stress

Information on this graphic was taken from the following two articles, which are great resources for farmers and those close to them:

Managing Farm Business and Family Stress (Compiled by Don Hofstrand, material originally written by Colleen Jolly, retired extension family life specialist; Ralph Mayer, retired extension farm management specialist)

Help Farmers Cope with Stress by BY MARGARET VANGINKEL, ANN JOHANNS, WILLY KLEIN

What does highly pathogenic bird flu mean for Iowa’s turkey farmers?

Since the first case of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) was confirmed in Minnesota in March, poultry farmers in the Midwest have been living in fear.
There has always been a risk that disease would affect our farms, so we do everything we can to prevent it. We raise our turkeys indoors so they can’t comingle with wild birds. We restrict visitors that may unknowingly bring germs inside. And we wear clean clothing and footwear in our barns.
But unfortunately, that’s not always enough to keep an outbreak from occurring.
Turkey farmers have dealt with disease outbreaks before. And sometimes, they have been serious. But none match the devastation caused by HPAI, or bird flu, as it is commonly called.

Ellworth turkeys by Aaron Putze

What’s different about bird flu?

Highly pathogenic avian influenza is concerning for several reasons.

       1. It’s spread by wild birds who show no symptoms. Because of the number of cases in the Mississippi Flyway, the migratory pattern for wild waterfowl in the Midwest, it is safe to assume that at least part of the wild waterfowl population here are infected. But there is no way to know without a blood test.
      2. There is a 21 day incubation period, during which time poultry may be infected, but do not show any signs. This is concerning because a farmer may have an infected flock and may spread it to another flock without knowing.
     3. It is highly pathogenic for poultry. After the incubation period, there are few symptoms before birds begin dying. And once they start dying, it’s a matter of days before the entire flock is affected.

This can be emotionally devastating to a farmer. Farmers put the care and well-being of their livestock at the top of their priority list. Can you imagine walking into a barn and seeing that half your flock had died overnight? It would be heartbreaking, and has been for many farmers involved.

As always, farmers are working hard to prevent the disease in their turkeys. And scientists are working overtime to figure out why the disease has become such a problem this year, when it has not been in the past. For now, the best we can do is continue to care for our turkeys as we always have, and hope for the best.

***There is NO food safety risk associated with avian influenza and only minimal human health risk. This strain of the virus has NOT infected any humans.
Iowa’s Turkey Industry Facts:
• 130 turkey farms
• Raise over 11 million turkeys every year
• Ranks 9th in US turkey production
• Each turkey adds more than $20 to Iowa’s economy.
• Total economic impact of raising and processing turkeys in Iowa is over $1.5 billion.

Turkey Farms Affected:

(turkey numbers are rounded to the nearest 1,000)
4/14/15 Buena Vista County 1 with 27,000 turkeys affected

4/24/15 Sac County 1 with 34,000 turkeys affected

4/29/15 Buena Vista County 2 with 41,000 turkeys affected

4/29/15 Buena Vista County 3 with 41,000 turkeys affected

4/30/15 Pocahontas County 1 with 17,000 turkeys affected

4/30/15 Cherokee County 1 with 45,000 turkeys affected

5/1/15 Buena Vista County 4 with 30,000 turkeys affected

5/1/15 Sac County 2 with 43,000 turkeys affected

5/1/15 Pocahontas County 2 with 33,000 turkeys affected

5/1/15 Buena Vista County 5 with 63,000 turkeys affected

5/1/15 Cherokee County 2 with 54,000 turkeys affected

5/4/15 Buena Vista County 6 with 34,000 turkeys affected

 

Total Turkeys: 458,506