Fact Check: 2022 Bird Flu Has NOT Caused Over 50 Million Bird Deaths As Of April 7, 2022

Fact Check

  • by: Lead Stories Staff
Fact Check: 2022 Bird Flu Has NOT Caused Over 50 Million Bird Deaths As Of April 7, 2022 Half Of That

Did over 50 million chickens and turkeys die from the 2022 bird flu outbreak as of April 7, 2022? No, that's not true: The Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate the number of bird deaths from the highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak first detected in early February 2022 as over 24 million at the time of writing. That figure, which was reported on the day this fact check was published, is only about half of 50 million.

The claim appeared in a Facebook post (archived here) on April 7, 2022. The post has a screenshot of an article published on the same day that was titled "Bird flu is killing millions of chickens and turkeys across the US." The caption of the post reads:

So over the past month over 50 million chickens and Turkeys have died or been killed because of the 'bird flu' that magically appeared across the country.

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

Facebook screenshot

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Mon Apr 11 20:38 2022 UTC)

Lead Stories reached out to the APHIS about the claim. In an email sent on April 11, 2022, Mike Stepien, a spokesperson for the APHIS, told us that on the day his message was sent, about 24.6 million domestic birds were reported as being affected by the outbreak. He went on to explain what happens to bird populations affected by Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI):

In responding to detections of HPAI, APHIS must depopulate affected flocks to prevent the spread of this highly contagious disease to additional flocks.

Quickly eliminating infected birds reduces the amount of virus in the environment and minimizes the risk of the disease spreading to and killing other birds.

APHIS has a 24-48 hour depopulation goal and operations are ongoing.

At the time of writing, CDC reported the bird death toll from the outbreak as more than 24.2 million. Indeed, not even the article screenshotted in the Facebook post claimed that the 2022 outbreak killed more than 50 million chickens and turkeys. The article placed the number of culled birds at more than 23 million.

The user who posted the claim may have relied on figures from the 2014-15 bird flu outbreak, which was the largest recorded poultry health disaster in U.S. history and was responsible for or played a role in the death of more than 50 million birds. While the 2022 event is the largest bird flu outbreak since the 2014-15 outbreak, it has yet to have the same impact as the earlier event.

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