‘Deadly’ bird flu outbreak on US chicken farm

By Oscar Rousseau

- Last updated on GMT

Tyson Foods said it was 'responding aggressively' to the outbreak
Tyson Foods said it was 'responding aggressively' to the outbreak

Related tags Influenza Livestock Poultry

A lethal form of highly pathogenic avian influenza (AI) has been confirmed in a commercial poultry operation in Tennessee, which supplies US meat giant Tyson Foods. 

The highly pathogenic AI strain H7 was found in a flock of 73,500 chickens on a commercial farm in Lincoln County, Tennessee, according to the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

All chickens on the farm will culled to prevent the spread of the disease. A quarantine zone has been set up around the farm.

An outbreak of the low pathogenic AI strain H5N2 has also been reported in Wisconson, over 900km from Tennessee, by the World Organisation for Animal Health.

No ‘disruption’ for Tyson Foods

Tyson Foods said it was “responding aggressively​” to the outbreak and was working with state and federal officials to contain the virus by culling the flock. Additional precautions for on-farm footwear have been set up by Tyson Foods to prevent people carrying the disease into poultry houses.

Based on the limited scope known to us at this time, we don’t expect disruptions to our chicken business and plan to meet our customers’ needs,​” the meat processor said in a statement.

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture said it was liaising directly with poultry workers at the affect facility to ensure they were taking proper safety precautions to prevent illness and disease spread.

Officials were alerted to the disease after the farm in Lincoln County reported an abnormal increase in chicken deaths. Testing at state labs confirmed the first presence of bird flu in the US this year.

Animal health is our top priority,​” said state veterinarian, Dr Charles Hatcher.

With this HPAI detection, we are moving quickly and aggressively to prevent the virus from spreading.​”

Tennessee’s Department of Agriculture has placed a further 30 poultry farms within a 10km radius of the site under quarantine. All of these farms will have their chicken flocks tested for AI. So far, no additional positive tests have been reported.

The only other case of AI​ reported in the US this year came in January 2016 when a commercial turkey flock in Indiana reported an outbreak.
Although this is a situation no state wants to face, Tennessee has been actively preparing to respond to HPAI since it was first identified as a threat,​” said the Tennessee Commissioner of Agriculture Jai Templeton.

A source of the outbreak has not yet been determined.

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