U.S. Bird Flu Outbreak: worst on record as AZ farmers take precautions

Egg farmers across the country are dealing with the worst bird flu outbreak on record.

Governors in four mid-western states have declared emergencies. 33 million birds have been euthanized so far.

The outbreak so far has not been a problem in Arizona; the worst hit states are Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

It's been detected out west, but not in the southwest.

The state's largest egg producer is making sure it stays that way.

Hickman's Family Farms is Arizona's largest only egg producer. The company has a total of about 8 million hens. Right now, their focus is on preventing the extremely deadly strain of bird flu that has crippled egg farms in the Midwest from becoming a problem here.

"We say prayers at night, and we're extremely concerned for our family and our company, our employees, and definitely our birds," said Clint Hickman.

Hickman said employees are practicing strict bio-security measures, to keep the virus out.

"They change their clothes before they go in, we keep production staff away from processing staff. Shoes that are on the facility, stay on the facility," he said.

"We're washing every truck that comes in and out of our facility," said Hickman.

So far, 33 million birds in 16 different states have been euthanized. Once the virus is detected on a farm, the entire flock must be eradicated to stop it from spreading. The farm is then disinfected twice and tested before egg production can begin again.

In the last couple of months, Hickman's Family Farms has seen their demand shoot up.

"We have calls in from several different huge and large companies that make those products and fulfill purchase orders, so if they're calling our farm all the way in Arizona that means there is absolutely a shortage of supply," he said.

And although they're enjoying the recent rains, the Hickman's can't wait for the warmer weather.

"We want it to start getting hot, and hope for that because the virus if it's on a contact surface of a truck from the midwest it's going to die as it hits our border," said Hickman.

The current outbreak involves strains of bird flu that post a low risk to human health. No human infections have been reported so far. 

The main effect on humans is the soaring prices of poultry and eggs the outbreak has caused.

Prices for a carton of eggs have gone up about 36% so far. Liquid egg prices have shot up 90%.
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