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Gov. Ricketts Signs Avian Influenza Emergency Declaration

Today, Governor Pete Ricketts signed a state of emergency declaration to address the discovery of avian influenza in Nebraska’s poultry sector. The Governor, in consultation with Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) Director Greg Ibach, issued the declaration in order to ensure the availability of resources for the state agencies who are working in Northeast Nebraska on the avian influenza discovery.

“The Nebraska Department of Agriculture is coordinating with several state agencies for a thorough, expeditious response,” Gov. Ricketts said. “While not a human health threat, the discovery of avian influenza is a serious situation for our poultry sector, and I want to provide responders with access to all appropriate tools to address it.”

The NDA announced yesterday the finding of a case of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N2 in a commercial layer flock in Dixon County. The flock of 1.7 million chickens is located within the central flyway where this strain of avian influenza has previously been identified.

The flock has been quarantined and, in accordance with United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) protocol, will be depopulated. A perimeter has been established around the farm, and NDA staff will be visiting all locations within a 6.2 mile radius that may have poultry to coordinate additional testing.

“We have an NDA team in northeast Nebraska and already are receiving great support from federal, state and local partners,” Ibach said. “This declaration gives us additional tools to effectively deal with this disease. We have a poultry sector valued at $1.1 billion, so obviously the impacts of avian influenza will be far-reaching.”

The state of emergency declaration is effective immediately. It will provide resources to help state agencies with appropriate response functions such as:

  • Tracking, monitoring and rapidly responding to instances of confirmed HPAI cases throughout the state of Nebraska;
  • Containing the spread of HPAI within Nebraska through employment of biosecurity protocols, depopulation of affected birds, disinfection practices, and disposal of bird mortalities; and
  • Engaging in surveillance and early detection activities and other investigatory efforts to stop the spread of the disease within the state.

State agencies are working through the Emergency Support Function 11, which is the agriculture section of the State Emergency Operations Plan. Activities at present of key involved state agencies include:

Nebraska Department of Agriculture

  • Serving as the lead on coordination of state response;
  • Working as the liaison with owners of affected farm(s);
  • Enforcing the quarantine of affected farm(s);
  • Working with other state and federal agencies on humane depopulation of, and disposal of, infected birds
  • Establishing quarantines for farms with poultry within a 6.2 mile radius of affected farm(s) and coordinate testing efforts;
  • Issuing permits for movement of materials such as feed, other supplies, and eggs and egg products outside of the 6.2 mile perimeter in accordance with national biosecurity measures;
  • Coordinating communications.

Nebraska Emergency Management Agency

  • Conducting coordination meetings of state agencies as per the State Emergency Operations Plan, and serving as liaison with the Governor’s Office;
  • Serving as the liaison with county and other local emergency response coordinators;
  • Providing resource support as requested, including coordinating with and directing the efforts of other state agencies.

Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality

  • Assisting with determining environmentally safe disposal options for bird mortalities, including sending a team to farm site(s). The goal is to determine best options to protect ground and surface water resources and air quality, and to manage disposal in a way that does not propagate further spread of the disease. The USDA has lengthy protocols for mortality disposal that also must be considered.

Nebraska Department of Roads and Nebraska State Patrol

  • Coordinating access to affected areas through road closures and traffic control.


The Centers for Disease Control considers the risk to people from HPAI H5 infections to be low. Proper handling and cooking of poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165 degrees kills the virus. Eggs from the affected Dixon County facility are processed and go through pasteurization, eliminating product consumption risk. This is an egg laying facility and therefore the chickens are not consumed.

As part of the existing USDA avian influenza response plans, federal and state partners as well as industry are following these five basic steps: 1) Quarantine – restricting movement of poultry and poultry-moving equipment into and out of the control area; 2) Eradicate – humanely euthanizing the affected flock(s); 3) Monitor region – testing wild and domestic birds in a broad area around the quarantine area; 4) Disinfect – kills the virus in the affected flock locations; and 5) Test – confirming that the poultry farm is AI virus-free.

Additional information on HPAI can be found online at Information is available for producers, media, and the general public.