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Bird Flu Found In Chickens On SD Egg Farm

SD Animal Industry Board

More than one million chickens are now at-risk for avian influenza after tests prove the disease has infected an egg-laying operation. Dakota Layers in Moody County discovered the disease in one of nine barns on the farm. That more than doubles the number of birds affected in South Dakota.

The deadly H5N2 strain of bird flu has invaded operations in nine South Dakota counties. Eight turkey farms in separate counties have tested positive for the virus. State Veterinarian Dustin Oedekoven says now the infection is confirmed in chickens.

"So that is the first case of highly-pathogenic avian influenza in a laying farm in South Dakota," Oedekoven says.

Oedekoven says the sheer size of the farm makes it difficult to remove birds already dead from disease. He says it’s also more challenging to contain the virus with more than one million birds. Officials have to depopulate – kill – all commercial birds exposed to the avian flu.

"And the depopulation is done both for disease control but also for humane purposes such a devastating, it really severely affects those birds in the barns that are affected," Oedekoven says.

Oedekoven says the latest positive tests put the number of South Dakota turkeys and chickens affected at more than 1.6 million. He encourages people who suspect birds are sick to call officials.

The state veterinarian says South Dakota has dozens of turkey farms and several egg-laying operations.

"I mean, if you just look at our state, you’ll see infected farms from our northernmost counties bordering North Dakota to our southernmost counties bordering Nebraska," Oedekoven says. "You know, the fact that it’s in eastern South Dakota just follows that’s where our poultry farms are."

Oedekoven says South Dakota is on the western edge of the avian influenza epidemic. He says right now the bird flu does not pose a risk to people.

Kealey Bultena grew up in South Dakota, where her grandparents took advantage of the state’s agriculture at nap time, tricking her into car rides to “go see cows.” Rarely did she stay awake long enough to see the livestock, but now she writes stories about the animals – and the legislature and education and much more. Kealey worked in television for four years while attending the University of South Dakota. She started interning with South Dakota Public Broadcasting in September 2010 and accepted a position with television in 2011. Now Kealey is the radio news producer stationed in Sioux Falls. As a multi-media journalist, Kealey prides herself on the diversity of the stories she tells and the impact her work has on people across the state. Kealey is always searching for new ideas. Let her know of a great story! Find her on Facebook and twitter (@KealeySDPB).