South Dakota Kills 85,000 Birds as Avian Flu Outbreak Spreads to State

Tens of thousands of birds have been euthanized in South Dakota after officials in the state detected an avian flu outbreak.

The outbreak was first found in turkeys at two animal feeding facilities in the state, South Dakota Public Broadcasting (SDPB) reported. About 85,000 birds have been killed so far to try to contain the disease's spread. This is South Dakota's first avian flu outbreak since 2015, according to the report.

The South Dakota avian flu cases are part of a widespread outbreak that has been detected in half of U.S. states. If the outbreak continues to spread, consumers of poultry and eggs could see a decrease in supplies.

On March 6, the U.S. Department of Agriculture first reported the "highly pathogenic avian influenza" had spread to South Dakota, appearing in Charles Mix County. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the flu outbreak does not present an "immediate health concern" for humans, as no human cases have been detected in the country, according to a USDA statement.

Bird flu infection is very rare in humans and requires eating undercooked poultry or eggs from an infected bird or contact with the bird's feces or facial secretions, according to the Mayo Clinic.

In South Dakota, the risk that any of the infected birds entered the food supply is low because the infected turkeys, as well as all poultry that were in close quarters with the turkeys, were euthanized, SDPB reported.

However, the outbreak has the potential to affect food supplies. During the 2015 outbreak, 50 million birds across 15 states were affected, costing the federal government almost $1 billion, SDPB reported. Egg prices increased as supplies dwindled, and a food company that lost part of its turkey supply to the flu had to issue hundreds of temporary job cuts, Food Dive reported.

The largest impacts in 2015 were seen in Iowa, the country's largest egg producer. An estimated 97 percent of egg capacity came from 1 percent of Iowa farms, the Food Dive report said. On March 2, the USDA confirmed that this year's outbreak had spread to Iowa. Just over a week later, it reported that more than 915,000 egg-laying chickens had been infected in the state.

Mendel Miller, the assistant state veterinarian for South Dakota, told SDPB that everyone in the industry "has done a great job of stepping up and trying to prevent" further outbreak." But he added that "there's just some things that are out of their control, and we just have to deal with it when it happens."

So far, the outbreak has been found in 25 states in the Midwest and the East Coast.

The South Dakota Department of Agriculture & Natural Resources did not immediately respond to Newsweek's request for comment.

Update 03/21/22, 11:15 a.m. ET: This story was updated to add more information and background.

Birds Killed in South Dakota
Tens of thousands of birds have been killed in South Dakota to curb the spread of avian flu after an outbreak was detected in turkeys in the state. Stock Image/Getty Images