Suppliers of U.S. poultry are facing a great crisis as the U.S. Department of Agriculture is still receiving reports of avian flu outbreaks, especially from farms in the Midwest.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has reported until now a total of 187 outbreaks, which count for more than 42.2 million birds being contaminated by the avian flu.
Farms in Iowa, Idaho, Minnesota, Indiana, Nebraska, Wisconsin, South Dakota, North Dakota, Missouri, Washington, Kansas, Oregon and California have been hit by the outbreak that started at the end of December. Since last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been notified by 60 avian flu reports from farms in Iowa, which the largest producer of chicken eggs in the U.S., with around 28.1 million birds.
The outbreak has been the cause of the prices soaring of chicken eggs prices. A dozen eggs from farms now costs $2.26, up 64 cents from mid-April, according to Iowa Public Radio.
Alex Melton, a poultry economist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, explained the price of eggs is now leveling out.
“When there is a scare in any sort of national market for any commodity, you often see a sharp increase in price followed by a tapering as people are able to take more stock and get more information,” Melton said.
Bird flu, also known as avian influenza, is usually affecting wild birds, including seagulls and ducks, but also livestock raised for food such as chickens, ducks, turkeys and geese. The virus is transmitted by bird secretions from the nose, eyes and mouth, and also trough feces. It is also found on eggshells that came out of infected birds. In some cases, highly contagious versions of the virus can contaminate nearby birds airborne.
As with the human flu, there are a few strains of avian influenza and some of them are more infectious and deadly than others. The outbreak in the Midwest is caused by the poweful pathogenic H5 virus, which is often much more powerful in turkeys and chickens.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the avian influenza virus is not usually a threat to humans. Some scientists believe that the current outbreak has resulted after mixed-origin viruses combined, and this type of flu can soon turn zoonotic, a stage that precedes human-to-human transmission.
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