Little Rock, AR – Arkansas has reported an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in a commercial poultry flock, marking the state’s first detection of the lethal bird flu since October 2022. The outbreak occurred in a flock of 31,600 breeder pullets in Madison County and prompts concerns over expanded trade limitations on Arkansas poultry exports.
Arkansas ranks as the third-largest chicken producing state in the U.S. The return of HPAI threatens to curb shipments to top export partners like Mexico, which quickly blocked poultry imports from Madison County following the confirmed outbreak.
New Biosecurity Measures Enacted
“We have taken immediate action to contain this disease,” said Wes Ward, Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture. Emergency protocols were initiated, including quarantining the affected farm and depopulating the entire flock. Disposal teams safely removed the birds to prevent further contamination.
Enhanced surveillance was implemented within a 6.2 mile radius of the premises as well as on all commercial operations in the control zone. Biosecurity measures were reviewed with all poultry producers in the surrounding area to prevent any potential spread.
The Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission along with the USDA are jointly investigating the source of this outbreak. Genetic sequencing is underway to determine if the virus matches previous 2022 strains or if it represents a new introduction.
Nationwide Uptick After Months of Quiet
This marks the first detection of HPAI in a commercial Arkansas flock since last October. It signals a nationwide resurgence of the avian flu after a lull of several months with no commercial infections.
The U.S. had gone since April 2022 without a commercial poultry case until South Dakota confirmed HPAI in October. Since then, outbreaks have arisen in Minnesota, Iowa, and Alabama. The Alabama event impacted a flock of 296,500 commercial gamebirds, eliciting trade restrictions from Mexico within days.
This season, HPAI has already wiped out over 60 million commercial chickens, turkeys, and other birds across the U.S. The disease spreads easily through wild bird migration and devastates domestic flocks with up to 100% mortality. No human cases have been linked to this outbreak.
Global Concerns as Mexico Farm Infected
Beyond American trade ties, the return of avian flu raises concerns internationally. Mexico detected its first 2022-2023 outbreak on a commercial farm in mid-November, just one month after declaring the country free of the virus.
The World Organization for Animal Health reported Mexico’s event and noted avian flu is spreading to new regions globally. Europe suffered a widespread epidemic last winter. The U.S., Mexico and France have now all confirmed farm-level outbreaks, suggesting another active flu season has arrived.
Ongoing Diligence Needed
Veterinary experts anticipate avian flu activity to increase again as wild birds migrate and transmit the virus. “We must remain vigilant about biosecurity at all levels of poultry production and throughout the live bird supply chain,” warned Dr. Cyril Gay with the USDA.
Enhanced surveillance, quarantines and rapid depopulation of infected flocks remain the best tools for controlling outbreaks. But preventing spread among wild birds is unlikely. Avian flu appears poised to remain an ongoing threat.
Arkansas producers are cooperating fully with animal health officials in the wake of this event. The state’s poultry sector generates nearly $4 billion annually and supports over 40,000 jobs. Stakeholders are anxious to contain this outbreak and protect their livelihoods during this difficult time.