The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) believes the avian influenza epidemic that has devastated several states in the Midwest was transmitted through different means, including farm workers, machinery, rodents and even by the wind.
Researchers at the department's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) examined the genetic properties of bird flu virus samples collected from over 80 chicken and turkey farms.
While the virus itself is believed to have been introduced onto farms by wild birds, APHIS scientists discovered that several lapses in biosecurity and factors in the environment allowed the microorganism to spread to different areas.
In its report, the USDA said that infected and non-infected farms have been found to share equipment, and that employees often move between facilities. The agency's staff also found that vehicles from these farms were not properly disinfected when they move from one area to the other.
There have been reports of wild birds or rodents spotted inside buildings that house poultry as well.
"We are compiling these observations and will present our findings in a subsequent update of this report," the agriculture department said.
"Until then, USDA is collaborating with affected industries and states to implement more stringent biosecurity procedures while continuing to work on identifying and mitigating other possible disease pathways in poultry farms nationwide."
Analysis of air samples taken from outside the contaminated poultry houses revealed that bird flu virus could also be spread by air. The report said that preliminary tests of wind data showed a potential connection between high winds in the area and the increase in number of affected farms around five days after.
Further studies are being conducted by the government to find out factors in the environmental that could have contributed to the transmission of the disease.
The USDA will continue to provide the results of their studies to state and industry officials. A meeting is being organized for next month in Iowa in order for the agriculture department to share information on biosecurity.
As of the moment, there are around 49 million birds in 15 states that have either died or euthanized because of the outbreak this spring alone. The rapid spread of the bird flu disease from farms in the Pacific Northwest to the Midwest has made it the worst case of an epidemic ever seen in the United States.
It has also severely affected the poultry industry in the country, with Minnesota, the leading grower of turkey, and Iowa, the leading producer of eggs, included in the list of states hardest hit by the outbreak.
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