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THIS WEEK: Avian flu likely to get worse before it gets better

Iowa's Secretary of Agriculture says the state has a plan to reduce the risks as farmers test their flocks.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa's fight against the spread of an avian flu strain may depend as much on the weather and those flying overhead as it does on prevention efforts on the ground.

"All throughout the Spring season as birds are moving North, this remains a significant threat," said Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Michael Naig on "News 8 THIS WEEK with Jim Mertens." 

The agriculture secretary says migratory birds have been the primary source of contamination at six poultry farms, including two backyard bird flocks.

"This can affect the very large producers and it can affect somebody with only a few chickens, a few birds, in their back yards."

You can listen to our entire interview with Sec. Mike Naig on THE CITIES PODCAST.

RELATED: Spread of bird flu cases in Iowa causes concern for QC chicken farmers

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the public is not at any health risk from the avian flu strain.

The USDA says poultry products are safe.

But it can decimate flocks and is highly contagious.

"It is an economic impact, it's certainly an impact to those families."

More than six million birds in Iowa have been destroyed in an effort to stop HPAI from spreading. And the state announced it is suspending all public events involving live poultry. That includes sales events, shows, and county fairs.

That ban will last for 30 days after any report of avian flu in an Iowa flock of birds. It isn't yet impacting summertime county fairs nor the Iowa State Fair.

For now.

"I'm really hopeful that we can, in fact, have those shows at County fairs.  But only time will tell," said Naig.

But before Summer, Iowa farmers need to get through the Spring and the warmer weather that brings with it those migratory birds that quickly spread avian influenza.

Secretary Naig said the situation could get worse before it gets better.

"Unfortunately that could be the case," he said.

Iowa is big on birds— the state leads the nation with more than 46.3 million egg-laying chickens. By comparison, Illinois has fewer than seven million.

And Iowa farmers have faced outbreaks before. 

"The farmers have made a lot of improvements to their biosecurity," said Naig.

He said that's the best line of defense for Iowa farmers to make sure contaminated livestock, including birds, aren't able to infect other nearby farms.

Watch "News 8 THIS WEEK with Jim Mertens" Sunday mornings at 10 on WQAD News 8.

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