KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — People can expect to pay more for turkeys this holiday season, as there is an avian flu outbreak in 42 states, including a small outbreak that affected a backyard flock in West Tennessee.
Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports this year's outbreak has already affected more than 40 million birds, including turkeys.
"So a lot of times we'll see, much like seasonal flu, we'll see higher incidents in the colder months,” said Dr. Marcy Souza from the University of Tennessee's College of Veterinarian Medicine.
Souza said this avian flu does not harm people, thankfully.
"So it's a virus that affects birds, and every once in a while it will have a more dangerous strain, which is referred to as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza. And that can actually cause death in particular birds, such as chickens and turkeys," she said.
The USDA said the avian flu outbreak has hit commercial farmers hard, killing nearly 48 million birds in more than 550 commercial and backyard poultry flocks.
People can expect to pay a higher price for turkeys this holiday season because of the shortage.
"It's really impacted us, and certainly, the people that we're feeding," Elaine Streno, a spokesperson for Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee, said.
The foodbank provides Thanksgiving turkeys to people in need every year, and there are about 550 partners and 18 counties that help feed the needy directly.
Streno said the cost of turkeys already has them over the annual budget.
"We're spending more, and that means we have to be more aggressive about fundraising," she said.
While people will have to pay more for the popular holiday dish, Souza said there are no public health concerns with enjoying turkey this Thanksgiving. She said birds in facilities where the avian flu was detected won't make it to the market.