DENVER (KDVR) — Chicken, egg and turkey prices could continue to soar at the grocery store as poultry producers brace for an unprecedented outbreak of avian flu. 

“This is a virus that naturally circulates in our wild bird population. We see it all the time,” Colorado’s state veterinarian, Dr. Maggie Baldwin, said.

However, she said the strain affecting wild birds right now is different. It is considered a “highly pathogenic” avian influenza, or HPAI.

“We have had a lot of wildlife mortality, more than any other highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak we’ve seen in history. This one is impacting wildlife more,” Baldwin said. 

HPAI had never been seen before in Colorado until April 2022. 

“This particular strain, H5N1, is of significant concern because it causes significant morbidity and mortality in domestic birds, so our domestic poultry populations, our chickens, our turkeys, we experience up to 100% mortality,” Baldwin said. 

4.7 million birds lost to avian flu in Colorado

Colorado has already lost 4.7 million birds to the outbreak. Experts are concerned that the number will be much higher following wild bird migration this fall. 

“Unfortunately, right now things look like they’re increasing this fall,” Baldwin said. “This fall is going to be a hard fall for everyone.”

According to Baldwin, more than 85% of hens used to produce eggs for human consumption have died in the outbreak. 

“We’ve heard everybody say, wow, the egg prices have gotten high this year, or the poultry prices have gotten high, or I can’t find a turkey for Thanksgiving, and this is why,” she said. 

The Colorado Department of Agriculture said it is monitoring the outbreak very closely and providing biosecurity guidelines to both professional and backyard poultry producers. 

The risk to humans and dogs is considered low. However, hunters need to take extra precautions when handling any bird from the wild.