The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has confirmed an outbreak of avian influenza in Nebraska, making it the 16th state to be hit by the disease.

Officials from the department's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said the epidemic was detected on an egg farm in Dixon County. It is the first reported case of bird flu in the state.

The USDA now plans to destroy the 1.7 chickens on the farm in order to contain the spread of the disease.

Greg Ibach, the director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, said they have quarantined 6.2 miles around the egg farm. They will also monitor a 12.4 mile radius around the facility.

"Unfortunately, Nebraska has joined a long list of states currently dealing with highly pathogenic avian influenza," he said.

"The goal is to quarantine the flock and attempt to control and contain the virus as quickly as possible."

The bird flu outbreak has already spread across neighboring Iowa, where an estimated 26 million chickens have already been affected. Agriculture officials kill off the infected poultry stock to limit the transmission of the disease.

Others states affected by the avian influenza include Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

"We were hoping for the best but I've got to be honest with you we were preparing very much for the eventuality that we would have a positive diagnosis like we've had now," Ibach added.

Poultry farmers across the United States have been struggling to contain the outbreak of the disease for months. They fear that the ongoing spread of the disease and the subsequent destruction of poultry stock will continue to cause them to lose millions of dollars.

In Minnesota, the rapid decline in turkey supplies has caused various processing plants to become idle. The effect on the state's turkey industry has also lead to layoffs of workers.

The USDA has allotted a budget of $84.5 million to compensate farmers and to cover other expenses related to controlling the outbreak. The department, however, can also use additional funding to pay for expected indemnity claims from poultry farmers.

"We are confident that support for producers will continue to be adequately funded as needed," the USDA said through an official statement.

Aside from its effect on the economy, the current outbreak of avian influenza does not pose a high threat to the health of humans, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Photo: Jessica "The Hun" Reeder | Flickr 

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