U.S. cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) have doubled in the last month. The first instance of HPAI was confirmed in a commercial turkey flock in Indiana on February 3, 2022. Since then, over 50 cases have been identified across 17 states, in both commercial and backyard flocks.
The current HPAI outbreak is the largest since 2014–2015, which had over 200 recorded cases. According to the World Organization for Animal Health, HPAI is spreading globally, with 317 outbreaks across 25 nations since the beginning of 2022. Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) suggests that wild birds are the source of the virus, as cases follow flight patterns across the country. It is expected that cases will grow through spring migration.
Precautions are being taken to prevent further spread of HPAI. For example, in Iowa, the nation’s biggest egg producer, the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship has canceled all live bird exhibitions and sales across the state for a minimum of 30 days. Euthanasia is also used to combat HPAI; the 2014–2015 outbreak forced the destruction of 50 million birds. APHIS provides resources that flock owners can use to defend their poultry against HPAI as well.
A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) spokesperson expressed that the current risk to public health is low, but if the spread of HPAI is not curbed, there is a concern of the virus mutating into a strain that is infectious to humans. There have not been any cases detected in humans thus far.
Update, May 3, 2022: USDA announced that $263 million from the Commodity Credit Corporation will be transferred to APHIS to help fight HPAI. APHIS has also reported new cases of HPAI in Oklahoma, Alaska and Vermont. The total number of states with a confirmed presence of HPAI is now 32.
Update, April 29, 2022: CDC has confirmed a human case of HPAI in Colorado. The patient had direct exposure to HPAI-infected poultry.
Update, April 18, 2022: APHIS has confirmed the presence of HPAI in a total of 29 states.
Update, April 4, 2022: APHIS has confirmed the presence of HPAI in a commercial pheasant flock in Texas.
Update, March 31, 2022: APHIS has confirmed the presence of HPAI in five additional states. The total count of affected states is now 25.