The highly pathogenic H5 avian flu turned up in initial tests at five more farms in Iowa, including a commercial egg operation housing up to 5.5 million birds, Iowa’s agriculture department said on Thursday.
If the virus is confirmed at the farms in additional tests under way at a U.S. Department of Agriculture laboratory, the total number of American cases could surpass 20 million birds and result in the biggest death toll in a bird flu outbreak in U.S. history.
Avian flu at the egg farm in Buena Vista County, where workers saw an unexpected jump in bird deaths before the flock was tested, could be the largest single farm operation to be hit in the current outbreak.
The egg farm’s owner, Rembrandt Foods, one of the top U.S. egg producers, confirmed the outbreak but disputed the number of birds affected. The state did not identify the affected farm by name.
Avian flu was “probable” at four other commercial farms in Buena Vista, Sioux and Clay counties, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship said. If the virus is confirmed at all five farms in the coming days, the number of sites where H5 has been found in Iowa would rise to 17. (Read more from “Iowa Reports More ‘Probable’ Bird Flu Cases” HERE)