Bird flu detected in the U.S. could mean even more for your grocery bills

Carla Paton

Federal authorities said Thursday that a strain of highly pathogenic avian or bird influenza was detected in Michigan in a backyard flock of birds in Kalamazoo County.

The infected flock was tested by the Michigan State University's Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services later confirmed. Michigan officials quarantined the Kalamazoo County site and birds at that property, and according to the USDA, they will be “depopulated” so the disease does not spread. Additionally, the USDA said that birds from that flock will not enter the food system. The virus is also theoretically lethal to any poultry in a commercial setting.

The recent bird flu cases in the U.S. pose a high risk, especially for farms that operate as turkey and chicken breeders. There was a similar outbreak back in 2015 that led to 50 million birds being killed and that cost the federal government an estimated $1 billion.

Additional recent outbreaks have been detected at commercial turkey farms in Indiana, in commercial broiler chickens in Kentucky, and in Delaware. It has also been found in backyard flocks in Virginia, New York, and Maine.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, these bird flu outbreaks do not present an immediate public health concern. As of now, no human cases of these viruses have been detected in the U.S. related to the current outbreaks. Indeed, only four humans have been found in the U.S. to have ever been infected, resulting in mild-to-moderate illness.

Economically, during the 2015 bird flu outbreak, it was estimated that for every million birds that were lost, the price of eggs increased 1.6 percent. The total increase in retail prices was estimated to have increased by 20-30 percent. Additionally, the price of turkey breasts rose 75 percent between May and July 2015.

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Colorado Highland cattle rancher. Writer and lover of nature and animals.

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