Bird flu has arrived in Utah and poultry producers are worried

Apr 18, 2022, 2:06 PM | Updated: Apr 21, 2022, 8:57 am
Michelle Love-Day and two of her children,  Elise Day, center, and Naomi Rose Day, look after two ...
Michelle Love-Day and two of her children,  Elise Day, center, and Naomi Rose Day, look after two of their young chickens at their home in Bluffdale on Wednesday, June 10, 2020. (Steve Griffin, Deseret News)
(Steve Griffin, Deseret News)

TAYLORSVILLE, Utah — Bird flu has turned up in a flock of backyard chickens in Utah County, making Utah the 29th state where the infection is now threatening commercial poultry operations. Across the country, millions of chickens have been destroyed as producers attempt to contain the outbreaks.

Dr. Dean Taylor, Utah’s State Veterinarian with the Department of Agriculture and Food, said they’ve been expecting the virus to turn up eventually. He said two of the seven birds in the flock died from the disease before they were notified. Two were sick and the others were euthanized. Taylor suspects the chickens got the disease from wild birds.

“They had access to the whole back yard, which went down to a waterway, where they came in contact with some wild ducks,” Taylor told KSL NewsRadio.

Taylor said they’re very concerned about the spread of bird flu to commercial poultry operations, and many of them are taking steps to stop the spread. He met with Utah’s turkey processors and said they’re very aware of the danger.

“They’ve reviewed all of their biosecurity, basically, so that everybody understands what their role is,” he said. “They’re not taking things between these facilities because it’s so easily spread and you don’t even know you’re spreading it.”

Bird flu in Utah is not a big problem for humans

Taylor said the strain of bird flu that’s been spreading through North America doesn’t appear to pose a big danger to humans.

“There’s a slight difference in the strain that we have going through right now that isn’t the one that gives us greatest concern for human health,” he said, though he still recommends good hygiene when handling poultry. There haven’t been any human cases of bird flu in the United States from the current outbreak.

“We’re just hoping that this plague will pass us by,” said Cliff Lillywhite, the co-owner and president of Oakdell Egg Farms. Lillywhite described to KSL NewsRadio how his operation is protecting its birds, washing trucks as they come into their facilities and requiring employees to wear special clothing.

“We have personal protective equipment like coveralls, making sure that when someone goes in with the birds, they put this personal protective gear on. Different shoes, [we] spray the shoes down,” Lillywhite said.

Lillywhite said worries about bird flu are one reason the price of eggs has risen recently. He said the war in Ukraine has also been a factor because Ukraine is a major grain producer and the price of feed has risen dramatically. He also said there’s reason to think the price of eggs will be dropping again soon.

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Bird flu has arrived in Utah and poultry producers are worried