Colds and flu

Updated 08 May 2015

Bird flu hits millions of US chickens

The bird flu virus has affected millions of chickens at an Iowa farm in the US, and all of them must be killed.


Up to 5.3 million hens at an Iowa farm must be destroyed after the highly infectious and deadly bird flu virus was confirmed, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said.

Spike or shortage unlikely

The farm has nearly 10 percent of the state's egg-laying hens. Iowa is home to roughly 59 million hens that lay nearly one in every five eggs consumed in the U.S.

Egg industry marketing experts say it's too early to predict the impact on prices, but say it's unlikely to immediately cause a spike or a shortage, because the number of chickens that are to be euthanized is a little more than 1 percent of the nation's egg layers.

Read: Bird flu – know the facts

"Don't panic. Let's wait and see," said poultry industry consultant Simon Shane, who also teaches poultry science and veterinary medicine at North Carolina State University.

He added that if 20 million to 30 million hens are infected, consumers could start seeing prices rise.

Several states affected

Several Midwestern states have been affected by the outbreaks, costing turkey and chicken producers nearly 7.8 million birds since March.

The virus was first detected in Minnesota, the country's top turkey-producing state, in early March and the H5N2 virus has since shown up on commercial farms in Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Read: Mutating H7N9 bird flu poses pandemic threat

On Monday, the virus was confirmed in another turkey farm in Minnesota and a backyard flock of mixed birds in Wisconsin.

Read more:

Fourth bird flu death in Egypt this year

Why you should get the flu jab

South Africans warned of severe flu strains

Image: Hundreds of chicken eggs from Shutterstock



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Flu expert

Dr Heidi van Deventer completed her MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 2004 at the University of Stellenbosch.
She has additional training in ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) and PALS (Paediatric Advanced Life Support) as well as biostatistics and epidemiology.

Dr Van Deventer is currently working as a researcher at the Desmond Tutu Tuberculosis Centre at the University of Stellenbosch.

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