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Bird flu outbreak drives Nebraska to cull 1.8 million more chickens

ACTON, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 05: Rescued chickens gather in an aviary at Farm Sanctuary’s Southern California Sanctuary on October 5, 2022 in Acton, California. A wave of the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian flu has now entered Southern California as the fall bird migration sets in, raising concerns for wild birds and poultry farms in the region. Farm Sanctuary is home to rescued chickens, turkeys, cows, pigs and other farm animals. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
ACTON, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 05: Rescued chickens gather in an aviary at Farm Sanctuary’s Southern California Sanctuary on October 5, 2022 in Acton, California. A wave of the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian flu has now entered Southern California as the fall bird migration sets in, raising concerns for wild birds and poultry farms in the region. Farm Sanctuary is home to rescued chickens, turkeys, cows, pigs and other farm animals. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

About 1.8 million more chickens must be killed in Nebraska to prevent the spread of a highly pathogenic bird flu virus, state officials said, as the U.S. sees its worst outbreak of the disease in seven years.

The state's latest spate of bird flu was found on an egg-laying farm in northeast Nebraska's Dixon County, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture said Saturday.

As the virus sweeps through commercial and backyard chicken and turkey flocks, agriculture officials are encouraging poultry producers to look out for signs of infection and report any cases to state or federal officials.

Nebraska, where 6.8 million birds have been affected by the outbreak, is the second worst-hit state behind Iowa, where 15.5 million birds have been culled.

This year, more than 50 million birds in 46 states have already died — mostly from being slaughtered to control the spread, but some from the deadly virus itself. It's the largest outbreak since 2015, when 50 million birds died.

There's little chance of humans contracting the virus. Human cases are extremely rare, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as properly cooking poultry and eggs will kill bacteria and viruses.

The bird flu outbreak has also contributed to the rise in consumer prices for eggs and poultry meat, on top of hiked-up costs from inflation.

Unlike the 2015 outbreak, this spread appears far more difficult to contain because it appears to easily spread among wild birds. Waterfowl — and the raptors that eat their carcasses — can carry the flu virus long distances and have the ability to pass the virus on to poultry.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.