WASHINGTON – On Feb. 14, the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced the discovery of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in a flock of commercial broiler chickens in Fulton County, Ky.

Springdale, Ark.-based Tyson Foods Inc. confirmed the chickens were being raised at one of its production farms and said the company is working with state and federal animal health officials to prevent the spread of the disease. Approximately 240,000 birds were affected by the outbreak.

The company said the source of the outbreak at this farm was not known, but that avian influenza (AI) is known to be spread by migratory birds.  

“Tyson Foods is prepared for situations like this, and we have robust plans in place, which we are now executing,” said Derek Burleson, a Tyson spokesperson. “This includes heightening biosecurity measures at other farms in the region, placing additional restrictions on outside visitors and continuing our practice of testing all flocks for avian influenza before birds leave the farms.”

The company iterated that AI is not a threat to food safety and that the Kentucky flock is one of thousands of farms raising chickens for Tyson.  

“The situation is not expected to impact our overall chicken production levels,” Burleson said.

Besides confirming the presence of the disease in Kentucky, the USDA said in its announcement that a backyard flock of mixed species of birds in Fauquier County, Va., was also confirmed. Additionally, APHIS is awaiting confirmation of a “non-negative” AI test from samples taken from a turkey flock in Webster County, Ky.   

According to APHIS, “State officials quarantined the affected premises, and birds on the properties will be depopulated to prevent the spread of the disease. Depopulation is complete in Virginia. Birds from the flocks will not enter the food system.”

USDA will share information about the discoveries with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and its trading partners.