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You Think the Dog Flu is Bad, Check This Out


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Dog flu (canine influenza virus) has been in the news. At least six (likely more) dogs have died as a result in the Chicago area in just over the past month with well over a thousand dogs sickened. Well, up to 5.3 million hens at an Iowa farm must are destroyed after the highly infectious and deadly bird flu virus was confirmed, according to the the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The farm in northwest Iowa’s Osceola County has nearly 10 percent of the state’s egg-laying hens. Iowa is home to roughly 59 million hens that lay nearly one in every five eggs consumed in the country.

Egg industry marketing experts say it’s too early to predict the impact on prices, but say it’s unlikely to immediately cause a spike or a shortage, because number of chickens that are to be euthanized is a little more than 1 percent of the nation’s egg layers.

“Don’t panic. Let’s wait and see,” said poultry industry consultant Simon Shane, who also teaches poultry science and veterinary medicine at North Carolina State University. He added that if 20 million to 30 million hens are infected, consumers could start seeing prices rise.

Several Midwestern states have been affected by the outbreaks, costing turkey and chicken producers nearly 7.8 million birds since March. The virus was first detected in Minnesota, the country’s top turkey-producing state, in early March and the H5N2 virus has since shown up on commercial farms in Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

If you think you’re desperate for summer to arrive, think about how the turkeys and chickens feel. Experts say once temperatures consistently hit 70 degrees or higher, the virus will dissipate.

It appears turkeys pass this strain of virus on to others more easily than chickens; the fatality rate in turkey flocks is often 100 percent vs. about 60 percent in chickens. H5N2 and other highly pathogenic strains have also been found since late last year among wild birds, backyard flocks and commercial farms in some western states and British Columbia.

They are enclosed but not airtight. Poultry farms with good biosecurity strictly limit who and what is allowed in: Workers often have to shower, wear protective coveralls and step in disinfectant, while equipment coming in and out is typically sanitized. But the system doesn’t always work, and rodents and wild birds can bring in the virus – and this virus requires is a good start, and some cool weather. It’s even possible wind-blown feathers and dust exposed to wild bird droppings could spread it.

No human infections with the virus have ever been detected. And, no, dogs and cats can not get this virus.

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Steve Dale is a certified animal behavior specialist who has been a trusted voice in the world of pet health for over 20 years. You have likely heard him on the radio, read him in print and online, and seen him speaking at events all over the world. His contributions to advancing pet wellness have earned him many an award and recognition around the globe.

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