Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza: Ongoing Outbreak
Joel L. Greene, Analyst in Agricultural Policy (email@example.com, 7-9877)
May 19, 2015 (IN10279)
A major disease outbreak is affecting the U.S. poultry industry. As of May 15, 2015, the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) reported 168 cases of highly
pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in 15 states, resulting in the infection of nearly 36.9 million turkeys, chickens
(egg-laying hens), and other poultry (see Table 1). The vast majority of the outbreaks have been caused by HPAI
strains known as the H5N2 and H5N8 strains, which are both virulent and deadly for domestic poultry. No
commercial broiler operations have been infected. According to the Center for Disease Control, no infections in
humans have been associated with the ongoing HPAI outbreaks.
HPAI outbreaks in the United States previously occurred in 1924, 1983, and 2004. The current outbreak is the
largest to date. The 1924 and 2004 outbreaks were small and quickly contained. The outbreak in 1983 resulted in
17 million birds being euthanized in the U.S. northeast. Outbreaks of low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) are
more frequent, but result in minor illness in poultry. LPAI outbreaks are quickly contained and eradicated because
some strains are potentially able to mutate into the more severe HPAI.
Table 1. HPAI Cases in the United States in 2014-2015
As of May 15, 2015
chicken, turkey, duck
turkey, chicken, mixed
turkey, mixed poultry
turkey, mixed poultry
turkey, chicken, mixed
# of Infected Birds
Source: USDA, APHIS. Data from December 2014 through May 15, 2015.
Notes: N/A is not available. Mixed poultry outbreaks are usually from
backyard flocks. Chicken (egg-laying hens) and turkey outbreaks are on
The current HPAI outbreak was first discovered in December 2014 in the Pacific Northwest in backyard flocks and
two California commercial turkey and chicken flocks. HPAI was transmitted by wild birds migrating through the
Pacific flyway. HPAI continued to spread through the winter as wild birds migrated through the Central and
Mississippi flyways (see Figure 1). The virus has continued to spread along the Mississippi and Central flyways,
infecting flocks of egg-laying hens in Iowa and turkeys in Minnesota, with outbreaks in several other states.
USDA expects HPAI cases to decline as warmer weather kills the virus, but HPAI could reemerge as migratory
birds fly south in the winter.
Figure 1. North American Flyways for Waterfowl
Pathways for Avian Influenza
Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
To help contain and eradicate diseases affecting U.S. livestock, the Animal Health Protection Act (7 U.S.C. §8301
et seq.) authorizes USDA to take extraordinary measures, such as seizing, restricting movement, or euthanizing
animals. In general, USDA works with state animal health officials through five steps to handle HPAI: (1)
quarantine the outbreak area; (2) euthanize affected birds; (3) monitor the area through testing of wild and
domestic birds; (4) disinfect the affected operations; and (5) test to confirm the area is AI-free and can be
repopulated with birds.
Once laboratory tests indicate a presumptive positive for HPAI, USDA compensates producers for birds that must
be euthanized, for the disposition of birds, and for infected materials that must also be destroyed. Producers are not
compensated for birds that die prior to the confirmation of HPAI. Payment is based on the "fair market" value as
determined by USDA appraisers.
The annual appropriation for APHIS avian health has been about $52 million in recent years. However, in case of
an animal health emergency, USDA has the authority to request additional funds as necessary, and the Office of
Management and Budget (OMB) may make an apportionment to provide money to contain and eradicate an
animal disease. The Senate and House Agriculture Committees, in a letter to OMB, expressed concern about
adequate funding and encouraged USDA to pursue whatever funding is necessary. To date, USDA has received
additional funds for HPAI of nearly $400 million from its Commodity Credit Corporation.
The ongoing HPAI outbreaks are likely to impact domestic production and prices, as well as U.S. exports of
poultry meat and eggs. So far, 8% of U.S. egg-laying hen inventory has been euthanized because of HPAI, and in
Iowa, the largest egg-producing state, 44% of the laying flock has been culled. The turkey cull has been 5.9
million birds, mostly in Minnesota, equal to about 2% of U.S. turkeys raised in 2014, and equal to 9% of turkeys
raised in Minnesota. On May 12, 2015, USDA reduced its turkey meat and egg production projections for 2015
because of HPAI. Reportedly, prices have risen for eggs and turkey. Preliminary estimates by livestock analysts of
losses due to HPAI in Minnesota and Iowa have reached $1 billion so far, accounting for turkey and egg losses, as
well as the impacts on other industries, such as feed and trucking.
In 2014, the United States exported over 4 million metric tons of poultry meat, valued at $5.5 billion, to global
markets (see Table 2). Since the first outbreaks in December 2014, trading partners have imposed bans on the
import of U.S. poultry products. China, Russia, and South Korea, 3 of the top 10 destinations for U.S. poultry in
2014, have banned all imports of U.S. poultry. Most other markets have imposed regional bans, i.e., bans on
shipments from states or parts of states experiencing outbreaks. Based on World Organization for Animal Health
(OIE) avian influenza guidelines, regional, or compartmental, bans are acceptable for handling concerns with
disease and effects on trade.
Table 2. Top 10 Poultry Meat Export Markets in 2014
Top 10 Total
All Poultry Meat
Current Bans on U.S. Poultry due
Sources: Foreign Agricultural Service, USDA, Global Agricultural Trade
System Online. Ban information is from the Export Library, Food Safety and
Inspection Service, USDA. *Information on Angola is not included in the