Some 3 million birds, almost all of them chickens and turkeys, have died in outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) since the first confirmation of the disease in domestic flocks on February 8, said a USDA agency on Wednesday. The latest outbreaks involved 442,000 chickens and turkeys on farms in Delaware, Maryland, and Missouri.
The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said the viral disease had been confirmed in a flock of 265,000 pullet chickens — young hens that have not started laying eggs — on a farm in New Castle County in northern Delaware; a flock of 150,000 broiler chickens on a farm in Queen Anne’s County, across Chesapeake Bay from Annapolis on the Eastern Shore of Maryland; and a flock of 27,000 turkeys on a farm in Jasper County in southwestern Missouri.
Delaware has been the hardest-hit state, losing 1.4 million birds to HPAI or to culling intended to prevent the spread of the contagious and lethal disease. HPAI can wipe out a flock quickly, so agricultural officials are ruthless in eradicating infected flocks.
More than 50 million chickens and turkeys died in an HPAI epidemic that ran from December 2014 through June 2015, leading to egg shortages and driving up prices. The outbreak also caused some countries to ban imports of U.S. poultry meat. Some 16% of U.S. poultry meat is exported.
The USDA list of HPAI outbreaks is available here.