Jan 23, 2024 - News

Louisiana maintains clean avian flu record despite worst nationwide outbreak on record

Illustration of a birds peeking through viewfinder holes in a green landscape

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It's been nearly two years since the start of the worst avian flu outbreak on record — but Louisiana has avoided any commercial or backyard flock infections.

Why it matters: Only one other state — West Virginia — has managed this feat, even as more than 80 million birds have been impacted nationwide since the start of the outbreak in February 2022, according to USDA data.

Driving the news: More than two dozen birds were found dead along Bayou St. John about two weeks ago. At least one was confirmed to have had bird flu, according to Fox 8.

  • The disease has been detected in about 150 wild birds around the state, the TV station reported.

But in Louisiana, farmers have managed to keep wild infections out of the more than 300 commercial and backyard flocks, says Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Mike Strain.

  • The state has tested more than 70,000 samples since the outbreak started, Strain tells Axios New Orleans, and certified 79 backyard flocks as being flu-free.
  • "We really emphasized stringent biosecurity," he says. "We really talked at length in reaching out to poultry growers that, if you go duck hunting, when you come back, leave your truck by the barn and shower and change your boots, change your pants."

The big picture: It helps that Louisiana isn't on the major path for Canadian birds heading South, Strain says, as birds typically fly through Texas to avoid crossing the Gulf of Mexico. That helps prevent wild infections from landing here.

  • When they do, the impact can be deadly. Just one infected duck landed in a pond at the Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo in Monroe in October 2022, leading to a loss of 30 birds.

Be smart: Avian flu isn't going anywhere. There's a vaccination, but American flocks don't use it.

  • That means biosecurity is the only route to protection.
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