USDA Confirms Highly Pathogenic H7N3 Avian Influenza in Turkey Flock

03:53PM Apr 09, 2020
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ARS developed the Beltsville Small White turkey in response to consumer demand. It dominated the market and transformed how Americans think of Thanksgiving.
( USDA Agricultural Research Service )

USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic H7N3 avian influenza (HPAI) in a commercial turkey flock in Chesterfield County, S.C. on Thursday. This is the first confirmed case of HPAI in commercial poultry in the U.S. since 2017.  

APHIS said this appears to be a HPAI strain mutated from a low pathogenic strain that has been found in poultry in that area recently. The affected premises were quarantined by state officials, and birds on the property were depopulated to prevent the spread of the disease. Birds from the flock will not enter the food system.

It's important to note that no human cases of this H7N3 avian influenza virus have been detected and there is no immediate public health concern, APHIS said. Keep in mind that proper handling and cooking of poultry and eggs should be to an internal temperature of 165 ˚F to kill bacteria and viruses.

The affected flock experienced increased mortality. Samples were tested at the Clemson Veterinary Diagnostic Center, part of the National Animal Laboratory Network, and confirmed at the APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa. Virus isolation is ongoing, APHIS said. APHIS will continue to work closely with the South Carolina State Veterinarian’s Office, part of Clemson University, on a joint incident response.

As part of existing avian influenza response plans, federal and state partners are working jointly on additional surveillance and testing in the nearby area.

"The United States has the strongest AI surveillance program in the world, and USDA is working with its partners to actively look for the disease in commercial poultry operations, live bird markets and in migratory wild bird populations," APHIS said in a release. "USDA will report this finding to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) as well as international trading partners. USDA also continues to communicate with trading partners to encourage adherence to OIE standards and minimize trade impacts."

OIE trade guidelines ask countries to base trade restrictions on sound science and limit restrictions to those animals and animal products within a defined region that pose a risk of spreading disease of concern when possible. 

"A regionalization agreement reached with China and South Korea should minimize any trade impacts as they can only block shipments from the from area where the bird flu is found and not place a blanket ban nationwide," explains Jim Wiesemeyer, Pro Farmer policy analyst. "Also, this is where the Phase 1 agreement with China comes in handy as purchases were not the only thing in the agreement as it contains regionalization language — China cannot block U.S. poultry from the entire country with this case in South Carolina." 

Biosecurity practices should continue to be forefront of mind for all bird owners, whether commercial producers or backyard enthusiasts. In addition, prevent contact between domestic birds and wild birds and report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to your state veterinarian or through USDA’s toll-free number at 866-536-7593.

For more information, visit aphis.usda.gov/animalhealth/defendtheflock

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