MADISON, Wis. – More than 180,000 chickens are infected with highly pathogenic H5N2 avian influenza, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) confirmed on April 13. Wisconsin is the 12th state to be affected by the virus.

The affected flock is in Jefferson County, Wis., in the southeast portion of the state. This is the first confirmed case of H5N2 in a commercial chicken flock, and Wisconsin's first outbreak of the disease, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the US Department of Agriculture reported.

The hens were at an egg-laying facility located in the Mississippi Flyway, APHIS noted. To date, the virus has been confirmed at commercial turkey farms and backyard flocks. Officials with DATCP immediately quarantined the farm and notified neighboring properties with poultry about the problem. The remaining birds will be culled to prevent the disease from spreading. Also, surveillance and testing procedures are underway at properties near the affected facilities.

“We are following strict protocols to contain and eliminate the disease,” said Dr. Paul McGraw, Wisconsin’s State Veterinarian.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) is monitoring workers who may have been exposed to the virus as a precautionary measure. H5N2 can kill a flock of birds within 48 hours; however the virus strain is not known to have caused illness in humans and is not expected to pose a risk to public health or the food supply.

Wisconsin is ranked among the top 20 states in broiler production and egg production, according to DATCP. The state has 19,173 registered poultry premises supporting roughly 5.4 million egg-laying hens.

In 2013, the Wisconsin poultry industry produced 1.48 billion eggs valued at $112 million. Producers also raised 53.1 million broilers worth $135 million in the same year. Poultry exports from Wisconsin were valued at $4.7 million in 2014.

“Now that we have a confirmation, it’s in a poultry owner’s best interest to take precautions to minimize the effect that this strain of avian influenza will have on their flock,” McGraw said.