Saturday, July 20, 2024

Health experts raise concern over the disposal of infected poultry birds as avian flu spreads

  • The CDC’s Principal Deputy Director and different well being experts highlighted the significance of carrying protecting gear when culling poultry birds infected with avian influenza, or the hen flu virus.
  • The CDC mentioned an absence of protecting gear throughout the disposal of chickens on a Colorado egg farm probably contributed to 5 hen flu instances amongst staff, although to this point no human or livestock instances have been linked on to disposal of animals with avian flu.
  • Most of the culled birds are composted or buried, however some are taken to landfills.

The unfold of hen flu amongst poultry and dairy farms has heightened some well being experts’ considerations that the course of of killing and disposing of poultry infected with the virus might pose a danger to people and livestock.

Recent cases of farms dumping carcasses in landfills and utilizing strategies to kill chickens that put staff in shut proximity to the virus present how the course of of getting rid of infected birds might additional unfold the illness, in line with information obtained by Reuters and interviews with officers and illness experts.

Extreme warmth that made it troublesome to maintain protecting gear on throughout the asphyxiation by carbon dioxide of chickens on a Colorado egg farm probably contributed to 5 hen flu instances amongst staff, the largest cluster of human instances in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention mentioned this week.


The state of affairs highlights the want for systematic use of protecting gear when killing the sick animals, mentioned the CDC’s Principal Deputy Director Nirav Shah on a Tuesday name with reporters about the outbreak.

Workers killing chickens danger inhaling the virus, mentioned Dr. Michael Osterholm, an infectious illness skilled at the University of Minnesota, of the course of. The staff had delicate signs together with pink eye and respiratory points.

“Depopulation activities need to clearly focus on protection for these individuals,” he mentioned.

The CDC and different well being experts emphasised the significance of staff utilizing proactive gear when coping with animals infected with avian influenza after 5 Colorado poultry farm staff examined constructive for the virus. (Reuters/Mike Blake)

So far, there have been no human or livestock instances linked on to disposal of animals with avian flu.


Bird flu has migrated to almost each U.S. state over the previous 2.5 years. There have been 9 instances amongst poultry and dairy staff since March, together with the Colorado poultry staff.

Further hen flu unfold amongst livestock might enhance the chance of human infections, although the danger to the normal public remains to be low, officers from the CDC have mentioned.

About 95 million chickens, turkeys, and different poultry have been killed and disposed of since February 2022, in line with U.S. Department of Agriculture information obtained by Reuters displaying culling and disposal strategies by way of late June.

Bird flu is deadly in birds and the authorities requires total flocks to be culled as soon as the virus is on a farm. The deadliest 12 months was 2022, however practically as many chickens have been disposed of to this point in 2024 as in all of 2023, the information exhibits.

The sick staff in Colorado, as an illustration, had been killing the birds with cellular gasoline chamber carts, mentioned Julie Gauthier, an official at USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, on the Tuesday name.

The carts can usually accommodate between a dozen and 50 birds and staff asphyxiate them batch by batch, Gauthier mentioned. A USDA spokesperson mentioned the company had reviewed the farm’s use of the technique as half of its response to the outbreak.

More than 150 of the staff had been uncovered to infected poultry, 69 displayed signs and had been examined, and 5 had been constructive, mentioned AnneMarie Harper, communications director at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Most chickens are killed by asphyxiation both with moveable chambers like these utilized in Colorado, or by spraying a firefighting foam on the birds or shutting down air flow to the rooster barns, the USDA information exhibits.

A small quantity are killed with firearms, by cervical dislocation, or different means.


Most of the culled birds are composted, both in rooster homes or on farms, or buried, in line with the USDA information. To compost the birds, farmers cowl them in materials like wooden shavings, keep the compost piles at a excessive temperature, and stir them often with farm gear in a course of that usually takes a number of weeks.

Federal and state officers work with farmers to find out the greatest disposal strategies, mentioned John Clifford, a former USDA chief veterinarian, now an advisor for the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council, an trade group.

It is most secure to compost on website to keep away from transferring the carcasses and probably spreading the virus, mentioned Myah Walker, compliance unit supervisor at the Minnesota Board of Animal Health.

In rarer instances, carcasses are transported to landfills, a course of that may meet some federal and state rules.

Michigan egg producer Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch disposed of practically 2 million chickens between April 15 and June 8 in personal landfills, in line with USDA information and Michigan state information of the disposal course of obtained by Reuters.

Herbruck’s declined to remark.

Just 3% of all poultry have been disposed of in landfills since 2022, and the Herbruck’s outbreak accounts for about two-thirds of them, the USDA information exhibits.

Soon after the Herbruck’s disposal, a dairy farm close to one of the landfills examined constructive for hen flu, alarming space farmers. Even so, entire genome sequencing confirmed the disposed Herbruck’s carcasses didn’t trigger the an infection, mentioned Adeline Hambley, Ottawa County’s well being officer.


Wild birds have helped unfold the virus between poultry farms and to different species.

Brian Hoefs, the state veterinarian for Minnesota, mentioned he wouldn’t suggest disposing of lifeless poultry in landfills.

“That’s the restaurant for scavengers. It would be a recipe for disaster,” he mentioned.

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