NASHVILLE – The office of the state veterinarian for Tennessee confirmed March 16 that a second commercial chicken flock that contracts with Tyson Foods Inc. has tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).
The flock in Lincoln County, Tennessee, was infected with H7N9 highly pathogenic flu, the same strain that was reported in another chicken flock less than 2 miles (3.2 km) away on March 5, according to the Tennessee Dept. of Agriculture. The previous case in Lincoln County, which is within the Mississippi flyway, 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.
According to Tyson, it discovered this new case as a part of its follow-up monitoring process to the original case discovered at a breeder farm in Lincoln County, Tennessee, on March 4.
“Wild birds can carry this strain of avian influenza.” State Veterinarian Dr. Charles Hatcher said. “Given the close proximity of the two premises, this is not unexpected. We will continue to execute our plan, working quickly to prevent the virus from spreading further.”
“We’ve coordinated with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the Tennessee Dept. of Agriculture to quickly respond and euthanize the chickens on this farm to prevent the potential spread of disease,” Tyson declared in a company statement. “All flocks located within a six-mile radius of the original farm will be tested and will not be transported unless they test negative for the virus. We don’t expect disruptions to our chicken business and plan to meet our customers’ needs.”
The initial March 4 case was the nation’s first infection of highly pathogenic bird flu at a commercial poultry operation in more than a year. Highly pathogenic bird flu led to the deaths of about 50 million birds, mostly egg-laying hens, in the United States in 2014 and 2015.
The Alabama Dept. of Agriculture and Industries also confirmed three findings of avian influenza in poultry in north Alabama on March 15.
Following the March 5 announcement, the US Poultry & Egg Association (USPOULTRY) issued a 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,” John Glisson, DVM, vice president of research programs for USPOULTRY, said in the statement. “The self-assessment tool will help identify any weaknesses on a farm, and numerous resources are identified to address any deficiencies.
Officials continue to iterate that the outbreaks are an animal health issue with serious implications for the poultry industry. However, there is no threat to the food supply.