WASHINGTON – Officials with the US Dept. of Agricultures’ Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced on March 5, the discovery of highly pathogenic avian influenza (AI) in a commercial chicken breeder flock in Tennessee. According to a spokesman with Tyson Foods Inc., Springdale, Arkansas, the flock is from one of the company’s contract growers. All of the company’s US poultry operations are exercising heightened biosecurity, he said.
The case was discovered in Lincoln County, which is within the Mississippi flyway and affected a flock of 73,500 birds. The property was quarantined and animal health officials planned to cull the birds to prevent the spread of the disease and ensure none of the animals entered the food system.
Tyson’s Gary Mickelson iterated that the issue is animal health related and not a human health concern. He said besides culling of the chickens on the farm, “All flocks located within a six-mile radius of the farm will be tested and will not be transported unless they test negative for the virus. 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 agency pointed out this is the first confirmed case of AI in the US in 2017. Testing of the flock conducted at the state level was confirmed at the APHIS national lab in Ames, Iowa, and officials at the National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) anticipate to categorize the virus as “N-type” (neuraminidase protein) within 48 hours.
APHIS said in a statement that US global trading partners and officials with the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) would be notified of the discovery, encouraging compliance with OIE’s science-based standards in their reaction to the news to minimize trade impact.
The US Poultry & Egg Association (USPOULTRY) issued a March 5 statement reminding members of the importance of biosecurity as an on-farm intervention to prevent the spread of AI. It referenced the availability of resources from the USDA, including a checklist for ensuring enhanced biosecurity.
“With this positive H7NX finding, there is an urgent need for all poultry producers to be vigilant in maintaining biosecurity on farms, particularly wild bird control at this time of year,” said John Glisson, DVM, vice president of research programs for USPOULTRY. “The self-assessment tool will help identify any weaknesses on a farm, and numerous resources are identified to address any deficiencies,” he said.
According to APHIS: “These virus strains can travel in wild birds without them appearing sick. People should avoid contact with sick/dead poultry or wildlife. If contact occurs, wash your hands with soap and water and change clothing before having any contact with healthy domestic poultry and birds.”