According to poultry experts, the H5N2 U.S. avian flu crisis is different from past outbreaks because the virus is hitting multiple neighboring farms instead of a wide range of producers. This changing transmission pattern has the U.S. poultry industry hopeful the disease will die out in the summer heat, but experts are questioning if the virus is mutating and how much it will reemerge in the fall.
“A worst-case scenario would involve the highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza returning in migratory wild birds in the fall of 2015 and infections occurring in all poultry sectors – broilers, turkeys and egg layers – and across the country including in the broiler production regions of the Southeastern U.S. and the Upper Midwest and California,” says John Clifford, the chief veterinary officer of the United States.
Preparations and heightened biosecurity are essential for stemming the spread of avian influenza.
“I believe [high-path avian influenza virus] will be in the fourth flyway in the fall,” says Clifford. “Already this year there were findings of the virus in wild birds in Ontario, Canada. I believe it will be present in wild birds in all the U.S. flyways this fall.”
To date, more than 50 million and rising turkeys and laying hens have been infected and culled with this deadly avian flu strain in 20 states. Shell egg prices have already increased, and many industries are already dealing with shortages.