A state of emergency was declared yesterday by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad with nearly 17 million chickens and turkeys dead, dying, or scheduled to be euthanized due to a widening bird flu outbreak. The proclamation activates disaster response and recovery procedures for the state's homeland security and emergency management personnel. It authorizes use of state resources, supplies, equipment, and materials to track and monitor bird flu, establish restrictions around affected farms, and assist in the rapid detection of cases. It also allows state agencies to help in the disposal of poultry carcasses, an increasing problem in a state where about 27% of its 60 million egg-laying chickens will be wiped out. Reuters reported last week that this could be the worst bird flu outbreak in US history.
"This is a magnitude much greater than anything we've dealt with in recent modern times," Branstad said. Added Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, "Unfortunately despite the best efforts of everyone to slow the spread of the disease, outbreaks are continuing to appear." Iowa is the nation's leading egg producer, providing one of every five eggs consumed in the country. The state is ninth in turkey production and has lost well over 110,000 turkeys. The state now has 21 cases of the H5N2 virus in 10 counties. Overall, the outbreak has led to Midwest chicken and turkey producers losing more than 21 million birds. Minnesota, which has lost some 4 million birds in 19 counties this spring, declared a state of emergency earlier this week. (Read more bird flu stories.)