This version of bird flu is thought to be transmitted by wild birds on their migration routes north and south, meaning that it’s spread during the spring and fall. This past summer’s outbreak was extraordinarily bad, forcing up egg prices across the country and slaughtering exports to other countries. Though things are stabilizing, we’re merely in the eye of the storm right now. Both farmers and the USDA are preparing for the worst this fall, stockpiling enough vaccine to stop a whopping 500 outbreaks, twice as many as occurred this summer.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack noted last month that the USDA has what appears to be a very effective vaccine, but the vaccine won’t stop outbreaks from occurring: It’ll simply stop birds from producing more of the virus, retarding the spread. But farmers are reluctant to use the vaccine, for fear that it’ll be seen, by foreign trading partners, as throwing in the towel. Many foreign importers will simply not purchase vaccinated birds. So the USDA isn’t issuing vaccines – it’s simply stockpiling them.
Harvest Public Media interviewed some farmers affected by this summer’s outbreak to find out how they’re responding to the previous outbreak and what seems like the inevitable fall/winter outbreak to come. Some farmers, luckily, are scrubbing and disinfecting their barns and repopulating with new birds. “Fortunately … as devastating as it is, the disease is relatively easy to get rid of,” writes Amy Mayer, speaking to Iowa turkey farmer Brad Moline.
Nobody can say for sure whether bird flu will return with the kind of strength it had during the summer. But everyone involved seems to be going above and beyond to make sure that if it does come back, it can at least be contained.