Iowa governor declares state of emergency due to bird flu outbreak

Minnesota Declares Bird Flu Emergency

(Reuters) - Iowa Governor Terry Branstad declared a state of emergency on Friday due to a rapidly expanding avian flu outbreak, soon after state agriculture officials announced four new poultry farms had initially tested positive for the virus.

Iowa, the top egg-producing state in the United States, is the third state to declare a state of emergency because of the viral outbreak, which either has led or will lead to the extermination of up to 21 million chickens and turkeys nationwide.

Minnesota and Wisconsin declared states of emergency in April.

8 PHOTOS
History of bird flu outbreaks
See Gallery
Iowa governor declares state of emergency due to bird flu outbreak
Thomas 'Tom' Vilsack, secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), speaks during an interview in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, June 8, 2015. Government spending to fight the worst U.S. bird flu outbreak and compensate farmers for their losses will exceed the $410 million so far budgeted and may top a half-billion dollars, Vilsack said. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Indian workers spread disinfectant after an operation to cull chickens at Venkateshwara Hatcheries in Thoroor village in Ranga Reddy district, some 55 kilometers from Hyderabad on April 15, 2015. Five chicks were found to be infected with H5N1 avian influenza on regular testing of samples belonging to the farm of a poultry farmer Srinivas Reddy. The authorities ordered the culling of 150,000 birds in a kilometre radius on poultry farms, although no cases of human infections were identified so far, according to Ranga Reddy district officials. AFP PHOTO / Noah SEELAM (Photo credit should read NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian workers spread disinfectant after an operation to cull chickens at Venkateshwara Hatcheries in Thoroor village in Ranga Reddy district, some 55 kilometers from Hyderabad on April 15, 2015. Five chicks were found to be infected with H5N1 avian influenza on regular testing of samples belonging to the farm of a poultry farmer Srinivas Reddy. The authorities ordered the culling of 150,000 birds in a kilometre radius on poultry farms, although no cases of human infections were identified so far, according to Ranga Reddy district officials. AFP PHOTO / Noah SEELAM (Photo credit should read NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian health workers dump bags of dead chickens after a culling operation at Venkateshwara Hatcheries in Thoroor village in Ranga Reddy district, some 55 kilometers from Hyderabad on April 15, 2015. Five chicks were found to be infected with H5N1 avian influenza on regular testing of samples belonging to the farm of a poultry farmer Srinivas Reddy. The authorities ordered the culling of 150,000 birds in a kilometre radius on poultry farms, although no cases of human infections were identified so far, according to Ranga Reddy district officials. AFP PHOTO / Noah SEELAM (Photo credit should read NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian health workers carry dead chickens in bags after a culling operation at Venkateshwara Hatcheries in Thoroor village in Ranga Reddy district, some 55 kilometers from Hyderabad on April 15, 2015. Five chicks were found to be infected with H5N1 avian influenza on regular testing of samples belonging to the farm of a poultry farmer Srinivas Reddy. The authorities ordered the culling of 150,000 birds in a kilometre radius on poultry farms, although no cases of human infections were identified so far, according to Ranga Reddy district officials. AFP PHOTO / Noah SEELAM (Photo credit should read NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images)
Dutch State Secretary Henk Bleker (C) puts on a mask during a visit to a turkey farm affected by a bout of the bird flu virus in Kelpen-Oler on March 19, 2012. All 42,700 turkeys at the farm will be slaughtered. AFP PHOTO / ANP MARCEL VAN HOORN netherlands out (Photo credit should read MARCEL VAN HOORN/AFP/Getty Images)
EAGLE GROVE, IA - MAY 17: A gate blocks the entrance of a farm operated by Daybreak Foods which has been designated 'bio security area' on May 17, 2015 near Eagle Grove, Iowa. Daybreak Foods is one of several large-scale commercial poultry facilities is Iowa reported to have been hit with a highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza which has forced poultry producers to kill off millions of birds in an attempt to stifle the spread of the illness. A road leading up to the front of the farm has been closed to outside traffic with a checkpoint established. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Iowa's state of emergency is effective immediately now and will be in force until at least the end of May, depending on developments in the outbreak, Branstad told a news conference.

The measure expands the efforts of the state's emergency response plan, and authorizes various state entities access to additional resources, supplies and equipment to track and contain the influenza outbreak. It also allows for the removal and disposal of infected animals on either public or private lands and lifts weight restrictions on trucks hauling culled flocks, among other things.

In addition, the action allows the state and local law enforcement to set up checkpoints and road blocks anywhere in the state, including areas outside of quarantined farms, "in order to stop the spread of this contagious disease," according to the governor's proclamation.

Dozens of countries have imposed total or partial bans on U.S. poultry and poultry imports since the outbreak of avian influenza was discovered in December.

As of Friday afternoon, Iowa officials said, 21 farm sites in 10 Iowa counties had been identified as having either confirmed or presumed positive cases of the highly pathogenic H5 strain of bird flu.

The tally includes the nine Iowa farms that tested positive in the past 24 hours, including a commercial egg operation housing up to 5.5 million birds in Buena Vista County, and a separate egg-laying farm that houses 1 million birds in Madison County, according to Iowa's agriculture department.

So far, an estimated 16 million egg-laying chickens in Iowa are in infected or presumed infected farm facilities - meaning that at least one-quarter of the state's flock will have to be killed and disposed of, state officials said.

"While the avian influenza outbreak does not pose a risk to humans, we are taking the matter very seriously and believe declaring a state of emergency is the best way to make all resources available," Branstad said in a statement.

(This version of the story adds details of cases in Iowa and other background)

(Reporting By P.J. Huffstutter; Editing by Frances Kerry)

Read Full Story