While the heat of summer should prevent any more cases of avian influenza, state and federal officials are looking ahead to the possibility of new outbreaks in Nebraska when the wild waterfowl start their next migration this fall.
At this point, USDA veterinarian Dr. Jack Shere says there’s no way to predict the extent of another hit from bird flu, though they’re prepping for the worst-case.
“If we use the occurrences of what we’ve seen in Asia and in eastern Europe and part of western Europe and the outbreaks that they have seen, we know that this can recur,” Shere says. “So, we are preparing for that.”
Shere, who works for the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, says when many millions of wild ducks and geese begin migrating in a few months, those birds may again bring the influenza with them. “We’ve talked about what are the best procedures to use in the event of another outbreak,” Shere says. “What’s the fastest way to deal with this disease and what things do we need to be looking at for preparation should this occur again?”
Poultry facilities will need to be even more vigilant to maintain strict biosecurity.
Two major poultry operations in northeast Nebraska’s Dixon County were hit by outbreaks of bird flu this year. More than three-and-a-half million chickens died or were destroyed, along with another one-and-a-half million pullets.
Right next door, Iowa was the worst-hit state by bird flu, with more than 70 outbreaks in 18 counties that resulted in the loss of more than 34-million birds.
Shere says the severity of the next wave is impossible to predict.
“We may see a large number of outbreaks or we may see a smattering, and then we have to worry about spring 2016. That’s the next time the virus will be moving north,” Shere says.
Nebraska’s poultry industry is worth an estimated $1.1-billion dollars a year.