USDA confirms avian influenza in Alaska duck

By Spencer Chase

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WASHINGTON, Aug. 26, 2016 - For the first time in 14 months, the bird disease that killed 50 million chickens and turkeys last year has been detected in the U.S. - in a wild duck in Alaska.

USDA says the H5N2 strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) was detected in a mallard from a state wildlife refuge near Fairbanks. This is the first detection of the H5N2 in the U.S. since June 2015. Another strain of HPAI, H7N8, was found in an Indiana turkey flock in January, but containment efforts kept it from spreading to other sites.

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According to a notice from USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the wild mallard in question was caught and tested as part of USDA's avian influenza surveillance program, which has tested almost 50,000 samples since July 2015.

The 2015 HPAI outbreak actually began at the end of 2014, when a backyard flock in Oregon came down with a strain of the disease. In the six months that followed, HPAI ripped through American poultry flocks, eventually resulting in the death and depopulation of more than 50 million chickens and turkeys in 242 flocks across 15 states. All told, it was the worst animal health disaster in U.S. history.

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At this time, there is no indication of any HPAI outside of this one detection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers the risk to human health to be low, and no human infections of H5 strains have ever been detected. APHIS urges proper cooking and handling of poultry and eggs to safeguard against any potential transmission.

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