Northern California Grapples with Surge in Avian Flu, Imperiling National Poultry and Egg Stocks

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In recent weeks, numerous farms in California have been compelled to euthanize millions of chickens and ducks due to the surge of avian influenza, posing a significant threat to the national poultry and egg supplies.

Although cases of the disease have been reported across the United States, the agricultural centers in Northern California have borne the brunt of substantial losses over the last month. 

California Bears Brunt of Avian Influenza with 3.8 Million Birds Affected

As of midday Friday, the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) reported that approximately 10.62 million birds in 63 flocks nationwide had been impacted by highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreaks within the last 30 days.

Of these flocks, 37 were commercial, and 26 were backyard flocks, with California witnessing the concentration of 3.8 million birds. 

This surge in HPAI, escalating since mid-fall, marks the latest development in an ongoing nationwide outbreak that has exhibited fluctuations since 2022.

A previous upswing in the disease significantly impacted the poultry industry last year, resulting in national egg shortages and elevated prices. 

The current situation suggests a potential repetition of such challenges. 

While egg prices are still half of what they were a year ago, they have risen by 12 percent over the past month.

California Identifies HPAI Infections in Multiple Counties

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In a recent inquiry by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, active infections of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) were identified in five counties: Sonoma, Marin, Merced, Fresno, and San Joaquin.

Last month, Sonoma County declared a state of emergency after HPAI was detected at two commercial poultry farms in the southern part of the county. In response, quarantine measures were imposed on these locations, leading to the euthanization of approximately 250,000 birds to safeguard other flocks in the vicinity.

Subsequently, in Sonoma County, a commercial table egg layer farm witnessed the impact of HPAI on approximately 494,200 birds, as reported by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

While certain specialists advocate for widespread vaccination of poultry as a measure to curb the disease’s transmission, Pitesky asserts that, at present, this proposition is neither financially nor logistically feasible. 

Implementing such a strategy would require processing over 8 billion broilers and more than 350 million egg-laying hens on an annual basis.

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