DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The deadly bird flu virus was found in an egg-laying flock with 3.7 million chickens in northwest Iowa in addition to four more poultry farms, state agriculture officials said Monday.
The virus will now cost Iowa egg producers about a sixth of the state's 60 million hens, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey said, or nearly 9.8 million chickens that have either been or will be euthanized.
Initial tests indicated the presence of the H5N2 virus on the large farm in Sioux County. The other probable cases, affecting more than 2 million chickens combined, are at two farms in O'Brien County, one in Osceola County and another in Sioux County.
Final confirmation is expected later Monday or Tuesday on the latest farms, Northey said.
Iowa is the nation's leading egg producer and has seen a rapid increase in the number of chickens affected by the virus since the first case was announced a week ago. The virus has also been found on two Iowa turkey farms involving 80,000 birds.
Nationally, the H5N2 virus has cost Midwestern turkey and chicken producers almost 13 million birds since early March.
The impact on consumer egg and turkey prices depends on how much more the virus spreads, according to Dr. T.J. Myers, a veterinary administrator with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. So far, nearly 7 million turkeys have been culled out of a total U.S. turkey population of 240 million.
"I don't think it's to the point yet where there's a huge market impact. The real question is what comes later this week, next week and the following week," he said.
The virus typically dies in the warmth of spring and summer, and the Midwest is approaching the season where temperatures in the 70s and more ultraviolet rays should halt the virus.
The federal government has an indemnity fund that pays turkey and chicken producers for the birds that remain alive on the farm but must be killed to eliminate the risk of spreading the disease. The fund also helps farms compost the birds and clean up the farm so it can be used again.
So far, the government has spent $60 million, Myers said.
The Iowa counties involved are concentrated in the northwest corner of Iowa but so far officials say they do not believe the virus is traveling from farm to farm.