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article imageU.S. has a really bad case of the Avian flu, and it's not good

By Karen Graham     May 9, 2015 in Business
State and federal officials have been struggling to find a safe way to dispose of the nearly 21 million birds infected with the H5N2 avian flu virus or destroyed to contain the disease.
The huge numbers of birds destroyed because of the avian flu virus outbreak has created big headaches for federal and state officials trying to decide the best way to dispose of them. Multiple options are needed; landfill, on-site burial, composting and incineration.
Of the different options, some of them reasonable, while others may be questionable. Landfill operators are concerned about handling the birds because of possible environmental contamination issues, and this is worth thinking about.
Poultry farm in Harris  Iowa. Iowa is the largest egg-producing state in the country.
Poultry farm in Harris, Iowa. Iowa is the largest egg-producing state in the country.
PBS NewsHour
Disposal of all those contaminated birds a problem
With all the worries about spreading the virus, Iowa's Department of Natural Resources granted permits to a Massachusetts-based company to bring portable incinerators into three counties to help with the disposal problem.
Additionally, about 3.5 million dead chickens may end up being driven more than 200 miles across Iowa and disposed of in the Loess Hills Regional Sanitary Landfill, in Mills County. But despite assurances of the landfill operator and state officials, no one is particularly thrilled about the possibility of spreading contamination.
"We wouldn't even consider it unless we felt it was a safe way to dispose of birds, without having the disease move to other facilities," said Bill Northey, Iowa's secretary of agriculture on Thursday, as cited by the Des Moines Register.
Richard Crouch, chairman of the Mills County Board of Supervisors, said he would not allow the birds to be sent to his part of the state, even though the county attorney told him he really didn't have any say in the decision. Crouch asked, "Why would you want to bring in several million birds" that could still be carrying bird flu?"
Avian flu in a chicken.
Avian flu in a chicken.
The Humane Society of the United States
U.S. has a really bad case of the H5N2 bird flu, and it's getting worse
This is the title of an article in the Motley Fool today. One thing they are correct on is the fact the H5N2 outbreak has not garnered the media attention it really deserves. America's $45 billion poultry industry has been hit pretty hard, and the long-range effects haven't even begun to be felt yet.
Domestic food prices could be the biggest casualty in this pandemic. But it wouldn't hurt to add the poultry owners, like Tyson Foods and Butterball, poultry industry customers like McDonald's, and poultry industry customers, such as Darling Ingredients.
Wild ducks may not be the carriers of the bird flu
Paul Young is a wildlife disease biologist with the United States Department of Agriculture. He explains that the H5N2 avian flu virus is a mixture of viruses, one from Europe/Asia and another from North America. This mix has created a superbug that most experts say will be around for a number of years.
Many experts believe wild ducks are carriers of the H5N2 virus.
Many experts believe wild ducks are carriers of the H5N2 virus.
An article in Digital Journal on April 27 explained how the H5N1 virus mutated, creating the H5N8 virus that reached North America, mutating again into the H5N2 virus devastating the country's poultry industry this year.
Federal and state wildlife scientists have been collecting thousands of what they call "environmental samples" from areas where ducks and geese have landed, usually near water. When a duck is on land and it poops and other ducks are stepping in the poop and eating around this fecal material, then it's spread from bird to bird," said Young.
Scientists have thought the avian flu virus is being spread by ducks, either flying over turkey farms, dropping the virus on the farms or the virus is being spread in the air by strong winds. Scientists also believe there is more than one way the virus is getting into poultry farms, perhaps being inadvertently brought in another way.
And this other way may prove to be correct. Wildlife pathologists in Wisconsin has opened up a new can of worms with their latest discovery. The scientists have been dissecting dead birds sent from Minnesota and testing them, along with wild turkey samples for avian flu.
Cooper s Hawk  Accipiter cooperii  Upper Marlboro  Maryland.
Cooper's Hawk, Accipiter cooperii, Upper Marlboro, Maryland.
Matt Tilliitt
"We need to know how the virus is truly spreading. Is it just by migratory birds," said wildlife virologist Hon Ip. Well, scientists did find the avian flu virus. But surprisingly, it was not in the ducks. It was found in a Cooper's hawk found in Yellow Medicine County, Minnesota. The researchers believe the hawk ate an infected bird.
The problem troubling scientists is that hawks don't eat ducks. So they surmise they should be looking for another bird as a carrier, and not just ducks. "What's going to be important for us to monitor moving forward is how this virus may change and evolve," said Jonathan Sleeman, Director of the National Wildlife Health Center.
More about h5n2, avian bird flu, Disposal, mixture, Superbug
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