First Nebraska cases of bird flu confirmed in flock of 1.7M

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – The ongoing bird flu outbreak has spread into Nebraska, and officials said Tuesday they plan to kill 1.7 million chickens on a farm where the disease has been found.

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said the presence of the illness on an egg farm in Dixon County in northeast Nebraska is the first in the state.

But bird flu is already widespread in neighboring Iowa, where more than 26 million chickens have been lost. Officials routinely destroy the entire flock when the disease is found to limit its spread.

Nebraska Agriculture Department Director Greg Ibach said he hopes officials will be able to limit the spread of bird flu, but the experience with the disease in other states suggest it will be difficult to contain.

“Unfortunately, Nebraska has joined a long list of states currently dealing with highly pathogenic avian influenza,” Ibach said. “The goal is to quarantine the flock and attempt to control and contain the virus as quickly as possible.”

The federal Agriculture Department said the bird flu doesn’t represent a significant health risk to humans.

Northeast is Nebraska is home to the majority of the egg-laying operations in the state, so officials are urging other farmers to follow proper biosecurity procedures. Nebraska has nearly 10 million egg-laying chickens and ranks 10th among states in egg production.

Ibach said all farmers with poultry near the infected flock will be contacted and a perimeter will be established around the farm.

Veterinarians trained in disposal procedures will oversee the killing of the chickens in the days and weeks ahead.

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