The Slatest

Largest Bird Flu Outbreak in U.S. Poultry; At Least 3.8 Million Iowa Hens to Be Euthanized

Chickens gather around a feeder at a farm in August 2014 in Osage, Iowa.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

The Department of Agriculture announced on Monday the U.S.’ largest outbreak of avian influenza, or bird flu, in Iowa at a commercial egg laying facility that is home to 3.8 million hens. The deadly strain of the virus means as many as 5.3 million birds could need to be euthanized, the Des Moines Register reports. The deadly virus is capable of killing an entire flock in 48 hours. The infected birds were being raised at Sunrise Farms, an affiliate of Sonstegard Foods Company, according to Reuters.


Iowa is the top egg producer in the U.S. with nearly one-in-five eggs consumed in the U.S. coming from the state. The affected farm accounts for 10 percent of the state’s egg-laying hens, according to the Associated Press. Iowa is one of 12 states to have confirmed cases of bird flu this year; Wisconsin declared a state of emergency to try to contain the outbreak there. “Several Midwestern states have been affected by the outbreaks, costing turkey and chicken producers nearly 7.8 million birds since March,” according to the AP. “The virus was first detected in Minnesota, the country’s top turkey-producing state, in early March.”

“Federal and state health officials consider the risk to people to be low from these infections in wild birds, backyard flocks and commercial poultry,” according to the Register. “No human infections with the virus have ever been detected.”