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Bird Flu Outbreak Nears Worst Ever in U.S. With 37 Million Animals Dead

Farmers have to destroy massive, infected flocks, leading to distressing scenes across the Midwest

Chickens at a farm in Gonzales, Texas.

Chickens at a farm in Gonzales, Texas.

Photographer: Mary Kang/Bloomberg

A bird flu virus that’s sweeping across the U.S. is rapidly becoming the country’s worst outbreak, having already killed over 37 million chickens and turkeys, with more deaths expected through next month as farmers perform mass culls.

Under guidance of the federal government, farms must destroy entire commercial flocks if just one bird tests positive for the virus, to stop the spread. That’s leading to distressing scenes across rural America. In Iowa, millions of animals in vast barns are suffocated in high temperatures or with poisonous foam. In Wisconsin, lines of dump trucks have taken days to collect masses of bird carcasses and pile them in unused fields. Neighbors live with the stench of the decaying birds.