Avian flu has spread to 27 states, sharply driving up egg prices


The price of eggs has soared in recent weeks in part because of a huge bird flu wave that has infected nearly 27 million chickens and turkeys in the United States, forcing many farmers to “depopulate” or destroy their animals to prevent a further spread.

The virus has impacted many different bird species, including penguins and bald eagles. But its spread among poultry has been tremendous, particularly among chickens raised for their eggs.

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced yet another outbreak, this one in two flocks in Idaho, making that the 27th state in which the virus has been found since February.

According to the USDA, the price of a dozen eggs in November hovered around $1. Right now, that price is $2.95 and rising.

The illness affects commercial birds, hobbyists’ backyard chicken flocks and wild birds, and is spread via secretions and leads to paralysis, swelling and diminished egg production. There have been no human cases of these avian influenza viruses detected in the United States.

So far, about 1.3 percent of all U.S. chickens have been affected in this outbreak and about 6 percent of the U.S. turkey flock, said Grady Ferguson, senior research analyst for Gro Intelligence, an agriculture data platform.

Ferguson tracked the last major outbreak of bird flu in 2015, saying that this outbreak has the potential to be more significant and disruptive to the poultry and egg markets. During the last epidemic, at this point in the outbreak, 66 days after first detection, the percentage of total chickens affected was .02 percent, ultimately climbing to around 2.5 percent of chickens infected and 50 million birds destroyed.


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