More than six months after the first case of highly pathogenic bird flu hit their state, Iowa officials on Friday announced that quarantines had been lifted for all 72 commercial poultry farms affected by the virus.
The H5N2 highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak last spring is considered the largest foreign animal disease outbreak in U.S. history. Wild birds carried the virus from the Pacific to the Mississippi Flyway. Roughly 31.5 million chickens and turkeys in Iowa were infected or euthanized as part of an infected barn.
Iowa officials announced all commercial barns or facilities affected by the virus have completed disinfection and cleaning, and passed environmental tests. The facilities can be restocked with birds.
The greenlight comes just as southern-flying migratory birds will again test the biosecurity measures of poultry operations.
Iowa’s first case of H5N2 was April 14. For about the next two months, a commercial operation was confirming the flu nearly daily. The 72 commercial operations included 35 turkey flocks, 22 egg flocks, 13 pullet flocks, a breeding flock, a separate hatchery and five backyard flocks.
Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey said most farmers and companies were planning to put the various sites back into operation.
Representatives of the Iowa Poultry Association and Iowa Turkey Association said they believed there would be ample supplies of products like eggs and turkeys for the holidays. A spokeswoman for the turkey association said Iowa turkeys are largely not sold as whole turkeys for holiday dinners.
The five backyard sites remain under quarantine. According to the department, backyard flocks require a 180-day fallow period before a quarantine can be lifted and birds brought back to the farm.
“It’s been quite an ordeal,” Northey said. “It’s good to be at this stage.”
Northey said surveillance is important right now as wild birds begin migrating south. Northey said producers had invested heavily to upgrade biosecurity measures over the last several months. “Everybody’s on high alert.”
As the fall migration begins, producers and elected officials in other major poultry-producing states fear they will be hit. Earlier this week, senators asked USDA to deal with some concerns about the poultry industry in Southern states. Lawmakers were largely concerned about equitable distribution of indemnities should contract growers be hit in the state.