WASHINGTON, April 20, 2015 – A major Iowa egg operation with more than 5 million hens is the latest poultry farm hit by a highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza.

The Agriculture Department announced new findings of the H5N2 virus in Minnesota and Wisconsin as well as the 5.3 million laying hens in Osceola County, Iowa. To date, virtually all of the infected Midwest farms have been commercial turkey operations.

The Iowa operation, which wasn’t named, represents about 1.5 percent of the nation’s total layer population. Iowa, which is by far the leading producer of eggs, averaged 59 million layers in 2014, about one-sixth of the total nationwide, according to USDA. No. 2 Ohio had 30 million.

“Clearly the egg farm that has this most recent discover of avian influenza  is a significant producer and highlights again how important it is that we do everything we can to contain the disease and work to prevent its spread,” said Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey. 

“Poultry farmers in Iowa are very focused on implementing biosecurity best practices and that work will continue.”

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As in other cases, Iowa officials have quarantined the layer operation, and all of the birds will be destroyed.  

Samples from the Iowa flock were tested at South Dakota State University, and the finding was confirmed at USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa.

A previous Iowa case was reported last week in a flock of 27,000 turkeys in Buena Vista County.

Elsewhere, the latest infected farms included a 23,000-turkey operation in Kandiyohi County, Minn., the sixth detection in that county, according to APHIS. The Wisconsin case involves a backyard flock of mixed poultry.

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service last week announced changes in the reporting plans for new cases of the disease ahead of an anticipated increase in detections in the upcoming spring migration of wild birds. Announcements are now being issued daily rather than as detected.