WASHINGTON, March 5, 2017 – The first 2017 detection of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in a commercial U.S. flock has been confirmed in Tennessee.

According to a release from the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, an H7 strain of HPAI was detected in a flock of 73,500 commercial chicken breeders in Lincoln County, Tenn. Testing is underway to determine the “N-type” of the virus. Samples taken form the facility confirmed the detection after the flock began experiencing increased mortality.

According to APHIS, officials are working with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture on an incident response. The facility has been quarantined and will be depopulated. The birds will not enter the food system. Additional HPAI surveillance will occur in the nearby area.

This is the first HPAI detection in a commercial flock in almost 14 months. An Indiana flock of commercial turkeys tested positive for the H7N8 strain of the disease in January 2016. No other commercial detections were reported last year.

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Concerns over HPAI have been heightened since the 2015 outbreak was responsible for the depopulation of more than 48 million birds. Unlike this detection and the 2016 confirmation in Indiana, most of the birds infected in 2015 were hit by an H5 strain of HPAI. All told, the outbreak was the largest animal health disaster in U.S. history.

HPAI is thought to be spread by wild birds, which can carry the disease without appearing to be sick. In 2015, the northern migratory pattern in the spring gradually moved the disease up the heart of the U.S., including the poultry-rich states of Iowa and Minnesota. Experts feared the return of the disease as those same wild birds moved back south later in the year, but no large scale HPAI reoccurrence was detected. 

The detection in Tennessee occurred in the Mississippi flyway, the path that wild birds follow between the Gulf of Mexico and Canada that was also hit by the disease in 2015 and 2016. HPAI has yet to be detected in the Atlantic flyway, where states like Delaware and Maryland have high concentrations of poultry operations.

To protect their operations from a similar detection, APHIS advises bird owners to “practice good biosecurity, prevent contact between their birds and wild birds, and report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to State/Federal officials.” The detected strains of HPAI are not thought to cause issues with human health, but APHIS has advised consumers to always ensure poultry and eggs are cooked to the proper temperature (165 degrees Fahrenheit).


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