The Avian Flu Is Hammering U.s. Poultry Farmers, Leaving Experts To Ask: What Has Changed?

Posted: Jan 19, 2023

The worst outbreak of avian influenza on record is threatening to stretch into a second year, as the U.S. races to contain a virus that has already caused some food prices to soar amid a shortage of eggs.

Nearly 58 million birds from commercial and backyard flocks have been wiped out in the U.S. since last February, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Experts say the virus, known as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, or HPAI, has been difficult to contain because it appears to be more prevalent in wild birds now than during previous outbreaks — a development that also makes future infections more likely. And while the risk of the virus spilling over into humans remains low, scientists say communities will feel the consequences of such a serious and lengthy outbreak for months to come.

“As it is now, this is the largest animal emergency that the USDA has faced in this country,” said Gino Lorenzoni, an assistant professor of poultry science and avian health at Pennsylvania State University.

More than 40 million egg-laying hens have been culled in the U.S. alone, causing the price of eggs nationwide to skyrocket, Lorenzoni said. Months earlier, the “bird flu” outbreak drove the cost of turkey meat to record highs.

By Denise Chow and Evan Bush
Date Published: January 18, 2023

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