Bird Flu Comes to Tennessee

March 6, 2017 09:38 AM

A deadly form of bird flu has been confirmed in a southern Tennessee chicken flock, marking the first U.S. case at a commercial poultry farm this year.

Highly-pathogenic H7 avian influenza was detected in a chicken breeder flock of 73,500 birds in Lincoln County, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said in a statement Sunday. The site has been placed under quarantine and the flock will be destroyed to prevent the disease’s spread. No birds will enter the food system, the agency said.

Tennessee borders several of the nation’s largest chicken-meat producing states, including Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas and North Carolina. The virus is believed to spread partly by migratory wild birds, posing the risk that it may reach other farms.

“Animal health is our top priority,” Charles Hatcher, Tennessee’s state veterinarian, said in a statement. “With this HPAI detection, we are moving quickly and aggressively to prevent the virus from spreading.”

South Korea banned poultry imports from the U.S. after the discovery, the agriculture ministry said Monday. The country has faced surging egg prices and has culled almost 34 million birds amid a domestic outbreak. While poultry producers across Europe and Asia have been grappling with bird flu in recent months, Brazil, the world’s largest chicken exporter, has so far remained untouched.

First Ever

The HPAI finding is the first ever in Tennessee, according to the state’s agriculture department. The highly pathogenic form of the virus can be fatal to domesticated chickens and turkeys. About 30 nearby poultry farms are also under quarantine, while none have reported an increase in bird deaths, the department said.

The U.S. southeast was largely spared bird flu during the last major U.S. outbreak, which was centered around turkey and egg farms in the Midwest and led to the death of more than 48 million birds through mid-2015 from either infection or culling. HPAI was found once last year at an Indiana turkey farm. Previous outbreaks have led some importing nations to restrict shipments of poultry from affected areas.

The U.S. is expected to produce a record 41.081 billion pounds of chicken this year, the USDA forecasts.

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