High-path avian flu found in commercial turkey flock in California

By Daniel Enoch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Jan. 24, 2015 - USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic (HPAI) H5N8 avian influenza in a commercial turkey flock in Stanislaus County, California.

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This is the first finding of HPAI in commercial poultry during the ongoing disease incident in the Pacific Flyway. Since mid-December, strains of the virus have been detected in wild birds or backyard poultry flocks in several states in the Pacific Northwest, including a case in northern Washington state near the border with Canada, where H5N2 has killed thousands of birds.

APHIS stressed that no human cases of these viruses have been detected in the U.S., Canada or internationally, and said there is no public health concern. The detections, however, are having a serious effect on the U.S. poultry industry. Last week, for example, China, banned all imports of U.S. poultry and eggs. The USA Poultry & Egg Export Council said China imported almost $272 million in U.S. poultry products in the first 11 months of 2014, mostly chicken feet and turkey meat.

USDA will be notifying the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) of the detection in California, a standard procedure, APHIS said. It added that the department continues to encourage trading partners to adhere to OIE standards and minimize trade impacts. OIE trade guidelines call on countries to base trade restrictions on sound science and, whenever possible, limit restrictions to those animals and animal products within a defined region that pose a risk of spreading disease of concern.

APHIS said it is working closely with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), which has quarantined the facility. It also said it will help CDFA in depopulating the remaining birds on the property to prevent the spread of the disease and make sure birds from the involved flock do not enter the food system.

Additionally, federal and state officials are working jointly on additional surveillance and testing in the nearby area, following existing avian influenza response plans. These plans include preventing the movement of risky animals or products out of the immediate area to prevent further disease spread.

H5N8 has not been shown to present a health risk to the public. As a reminder, the proper handling and cooking of poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165 ˚F kills bacteria and viruses.

The H5N8 virus originated in Asia and spread rapidly along wild bird migratory pathways during 2014, including the Pacific flyway, where the virus has mixed with North American avian influenza viruses, creating new mixed-origin viruses.  These mixed-origin viruses contain the Asian-origin H5 part of the virus, which is highly pathogenic to poultry.  The N parts of these viruses came from North American low pathogenic avian influenza viruses.

USDA has identified two mixed-origin viruses in the Pacific Flyway: the H5N2 virus and new H5N1 virus. The new H5N1 virus is not the same virus as the H5N1 virus found in Asia, Europe and Africa that has caused some human illness.  Detailed analysis of the virus is under way in cooperation with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  None of these viruses have been identified in humans, nor are expected to pose a public health risk, APHIS said.

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