The number of chickens, ducks and turkeys across the U.S. that have succumbed to bird flu has now reached millions, prompting governors of fours states to declare emergencies.
The outbreak, which officials describe as the worst on record, has already resulted in the culling of 33 million birds in 16 states across the country.
In Iowa, bird flu is at its worst, affecting 5.3 million birds. The logistical problem caused by the culling of millions of birds had the state sending mobile incinerators to farms to destroy chickens. More than 40 percent of Iowa's egg-laying hens are already dead or dying.
Of every five eggs that are consumed in the U.S., one is from hens from Iowa. The state's $2 billion egg-laying agricultural industry is already on high alert since cases of the virus emerged this spring.
The outbreak also caused the death of tens of thousands of birds in Wisconsin, with the governor declaring a state of emergency in order to gain aid for the famers.
Farmers in South Dakota likewise lost thousands of birds, while the toll is greater in Minnesota, where about 2 million birds were struck by the virus. Indiana, on the other hand, had its first case this month.
Experts said that the current strain of bird flu poses low risk to humans albeit no infection in humans has yet been identified. The main effect of the disease, however, is evident in the rising cost of poultry and eggs.
From $1.19, a carton of a dozen large eggs in the Midwest rose to $1.39, up 17 percent since the virus started to appear in the chicken flocks in Iowa and farmers started to cull to contain the virus.
The price of eggs used as processed food ingredients, which make up majority of Iowa's production, also increased by 63 percent, from 63 cents a dozen to $1.03 over a three-week period.
The cost of turkey, which was expected to fall this year, is also slightly up as the virus claimed approximately 5.6 million turkeys all throughout the U.S.
Government officials hope that the influx of warmer weather would help halt the spread of avian flu, but the virus continues to rage across state lines.
"Since Monday, we've had 10 to 12 more infected flocks added across the country. The virus continues to spread, more so in other states," said Denise Derrer from the Indiana State Board of Animal Health. "We thought with warmer weather coming, the flu doesn't like that, and that it will die out, but we can't say we're in a place yet where that's happening."
Photo: Lolly Knit | Flickr