COLUMBUS — Since November 2014, an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5 has gripped the U.S. poultry industry, killing close to 50 million birds from commercial and backyard flocks in 19 states, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Originally spread by wild waterfowl, the virus has impacted turkey and chicken producers in the West and Midwest. Heavy losses to egg farms in Iowa — the nation’s No. 1 producer of eggs until the current outbreak decimated production there — have sent egg prices soaring across the United States, more than doubling in some parts of the country.
While the virus has not reached Ohio, experts with the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University have been helping poultry producers learn about the disease, boost biosecurity measures on the farm, and prepare to minimize the flu’s impact if it were to reach the state.
Ohio’s poultry industry is worth $2.3 billion and directly supports more than 14,600 jobs, according to the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Nationally, Ohio ranks ninth in turkey production and has now surpassed Iowa as the top egg producer.
Mohamed El-Gazzar, Ohio State University Extension’s poultry veterinarian, has been working with the poultry industry since the virus was discovered in the U.S. He said there are two main types of challenges when it comes to the current outbreak: challenges related to the virus itself and challenges related to the logistics of disease control.
OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the college.
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