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Poultry industry worried due to avian flu spreading in America

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Poultry industry worried due to avian flu spreading in America

The 2014-15 outbreak is considered the most devastating in the country’s history. This pushed up the prices of poultry and eggs and cost the industry more than $3 billion – although the federal government compensated farmers for lost flocks. In the end, about 50 million birds were killed by the virus or destroyed to stop its spread, most of them in Iowa and Minnesota.

John Burkel, 54, a fourth-generation turkey grower in northern Minnesota, is watching the spread with panic. In 2015, the virus spread to his farm within days, leaving only 70 left in the shed that housed 7,000 birds. The weeks that followed were spent killing, composting the dead, and then repeatedly disinfecting the barn.

As a precaution, health officials also advised him and his son to take a course of antiviral drug Tamiflu. “We have never seen a virus like this,” said Mr. Burkel, a state legislator who works in the fields with his wife and two children. “It was just awful.”

Since then, agriculture officials across the country have prompted farmers to adopt a series of biosafety measures aimed at containing the outbreak. These include sealing small holes that could allow rats or sparrows to enter the barn, disinfecting the tires of feed-delivery trucks before they enter the farm, and “clean” and “dirty” Create areas where workers can change into new shoes and coveralls before stepping out. Inside an animal control shed.

At the same time, experts say federal officials have strengthened a nationwide system of surveillance that allows researchers to track the spread of an avian flu within wild bird populations, in near real time. “I think the 2015 crisis made us realize that it took a village to stop an outbreak and it made us better prepared,” said Dr. Yuko Sato, a poultry veterinarian at Iowa State University.

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But hypervigilance has its limits, particularly against a microscopic pathogen that can infiltrate a barn at the foot of a single house fly. For a growing number of scientists, the real threat is the country’s industrial system of meat and dairy production, which relies on genetically identical organisms packed inside thousands of sprawling confinement sheds.

Nearly all nine Arabian chickens raised and slaughtered each year in the United States can trace their ancestry to a handful of breeds that have been tamed to support rapid growth and plump breasts. Birds are also exceptionally vulnerable to disease outbreaks. “They all have the same immune system, or lack of immune system, so once the virus gets inside a barn, it will spread like wildfire,” said Dr Hansen, a public health veterinarian.

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