Nationwide, 92M birds have been affected by bird flu. Here's what to know in Missouri

Across the nation, the avian flu outbreak has impacted more than 92 million poultry in 48 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On May 22, a second case of cattle-to-human avian flu was identified in Michigan.

While there have been some avian flu cases in Missouri poultry, there have been no cattle or human cases. The last reported poultry outbreaks in Missouri were in February, according to the Missouri Department of Agriculture.

Additionally, nine states have reported outbreaks of the avian flu in cattle, with 58 herds across the U.S. impacted. There also have been more than 9,000 cases detected in wild birds in 50 jurisdictions.

Is H5NI (avian flu) dangerous to people?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been two cattle-to-human transmission cases: One in Texas and one in Michigan. The most recent one was announced May 22, with the first happening in the beginning of April. So far, humans infected have only reported eye infection symptoms and have made full recoveries.

No person-to-person spread has taken place. Since 1997, 889 human infections have been reported in 23 countries. The infection results in severe pneumonia and death in about 50% of the cases.

"As of now, this is a low-risk situation for humans," Michael Osterholm, PhD, MPH, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota told the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Which counties in Missouri are affected by avian flu poultry infections?

Nine Missouri counties have been impacted by poultry infections since January 2023. Dallas County has had four outbreaks of the influenza in 2024. Johnson, Carroll, Maries, Phelps, Benton, Jasper, St. Louis and Audrain counties have all seen cases in the last six months, as well.

The Dallas County outbreaks affected commercial turkeys and backyard poultry.

A newly hatched chick in a 2023 poultry exhibition.
A newly hatched chick in a 2023 poultry exhibition.

What is the impact on poultry?

Avian flu is highly contagious among birds and can sicken or kill certain domesticated bird species including chickens, ducks and turkeys. It has a 90% to 100% mortality rate in chickens, often within 48 hours, according to the CDC. When an outbreak occurs in poultry, the infected flocks are culled. Nearby flocks are watched and quarantined.

Over 92 million cases have been detected in U.S. wild aquatic birds, commercial poultry and backyard or hobbyist flocks since January 2022. Birds spread the disease in their saliva, nasal secretions and feces. They also can become infected through contact with surfaces that are contaminated with the virus, the CDC said.

According to the MDA, warning signs of avian flu in birds include:

  • Decrease in water or feed consumption;

  • Respiratory signs, such as coughing and sneezing;

  • Quietness among the flock;

  • Decrease in egg production;

  • Sudden increase of death in the flock.

Which counties in Missouri are affected by avian flu cattle infections?

No counties in Missouri have reported cattle infections, according to the CDC.

However, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, avian flu is less deadly for cattle and animals "reportedly recover with supportive treatment."

Common symptoms of cattle avian flu infection include low appetite, reduced milk production and abnormal appearance of milk, such as it being thickened or discolored.

What is Missouri doing about avian flu?

According to the Missouri Department of Agriculture, there is no immediate threat to public health.

Are chicken and turkey safe to eat?

According to the CDC, there has not been any evidence in the U.S. of someone getting bird flu after eating properly handled and cooked food items. However, uncooked poultry and poultry products like blood may have been the source of a small number of infections in Southeast Asia.

The MDA advises consumers to use safe handling and cooking methods. It also says infected birds have been quarantined and will not impact the food supply.

Safe food handling includes separating uncooked poultry and beef from cooked foods and foods that won't be cooked, cooking poultry and eggs to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit and cooking beef to the appropriate internal temperature depending on the cut of beef.

The American Egg Board advises people to cook eggs until the yolk and whites are firm.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend cooking your poultry and eggs to at least 165 degrees.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend cooking your poultry and eggs to at least 165 degrees.

Will this affect egg prices and availability?

The avian flu is expected to impact prices. President of the American Egg Board Emily Metz told the Associated Press that it takes a farm three to six months to replenish a flock. During that time, egg supply will be lower, so prices will be higher.

March saw near-historic highs for egg prices, according to Associated Press reporting. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the average price of dozen eggs was $1.63 in May 2021. It is currently $2.86.

According to a May 2024 outlook from the United States Agriculture Department, egg prices are forecasted to drop by 21.4% in 2025.

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What about milk?

Based on the information currently available, the USDA and Food and Drug Administration says that the commercial milk supply is safe because of the pasteurization process and destruction of milk from sick cows. Pasteurization is a method that kills harmful bacteria and viruses by heating milk to a specific temperature for a specific amount of time.

A recent study found that mice who drank raw milk — milk that has not been pasteurized — had higher H5N1 levels in their nasal passages, lungs and trachea than in their other vital organs and "raises questions about its potential risk in humans," according to a National Institutes for Health media release. The University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory conducted the study.

What does this mean for 4-H in Missouri?

Currently, normal measures are in place for interstate exhibition, according to the MDA.

Poultry must be free of clinical signs of illness and the poultry must have a pullorum-typhoid test within 90 days prior to exhibition or be from a National Poultry Improvement Plan or equivalent program flock that has been tested within the last year and has not changed owners.

When showing poultry, MDA recommends the following measures to ensure flocks stay healthy after returning from an exhibition:

  • Quarantine exhibition birds for a minimum of 14 days;

  • Quarantine birds in separate area/pens away from other birds;

  • Feed and water quarantined birds last;

  • Don't share equipment or supplies used on quarantined birds with other birds;

  • Clean and disinfect pens/cages, show boxes and other equipment after quarantine;

  • Always wash your hands and disinfect shoes/boots after handling or working with quarantined birds.

Susan Szuch reports on health and food for the Springfield News-Leader. Follow her on X, formerly known as Twitter, at @szuchsm. Story idea? Email her at sszuch@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: Avian flu confined to birds in MO for now. Here's what to know.