WASHINGTON, April 12, 2017 – Tennessee’s state veterinarian has lifted the control zone around two poultry farms in the state where the H7N9 strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) was detected last month. 

“We have determined through extensive testing that HPAI has not spread to other poultry flocks in our 10-kilometer control zone” around the two facilities in Lincoln County, State Veterinarian Charles Hatcher said. Still, he said poultry owners across the state should continue to monitor their flocks and immediately report any spike in illness or death.

Cleaning and disinfection is continuing at the two affected premises.

The department also lifted a statewide poultry health advisory, which allows poultry owners to resume regular operations.

The two detections were the first in a commercial flock since 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.

In 2015, HPAI resulted in depopulation of 7.5 million turkeys and 42.1 million egg-layer and pullet chickens in 21 states, mostly in Minnesota and Iowa, after wild birds spread the disease during their northern migration. USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s 2016 HPAI Preparedness and Response Plan said the outbreak cost federal taxpayers more than $950 million, including millions in indemnity payments and depopulation expenses.

In Tennessee, after HPAI was first detected on March 4, 73,500 birds were depopulated and buried, and animal health officials established the control zone, in which poultry movement was restricted and birds from both commercial and backyard flocks were tested weekly for three weeks. Ten days later, samples from a commercial flock less than two miles away also tested positive for H7N9 HPAI, the same strain of avian influenza. That resulted in depopulation of 55,000 birds.

The detections caused several importing countries to quickly impose bans on U.S. poultry. All but one of those bans were regional, banning product at the county or state level. The list includes Colombia, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Iraq, Jamaica, Honduras and Kazakhstan. The exception was South Korea, a major importer, which banned all U.S. poultry and eggs.

Toby Moore, a spokesman for the U.S. Poultry and Egg Export Council, said most of the countries are expected to lift their bans soon.

Low pathogenic avian flu (LPAI) was found on March 8 in a commercial chicken flock in Giles County, Tennessee, resulting in the depopulation of 17,000 birds. Domesticated poultry within a 10-kilometer radius were tested and monitored for illness. The state Department of Agriculture lifted that surveillance zone on March 30.

Although state officials did not prohibit poultry exhibitions, shows or sales after the two strains of influenza were detected, they did issue a poultry health advisory and discouraged commingling of birds.

“Neither HPAI nor LPAI pose a risk to the food supply,” the state Department of Agriculture said. “No affected animals entered the food chain. Furthermore, the Tennessee Department of Health confirms that the risk of a human becoming ill with avian influenza during poultry illness incidents is very low.”

Outside the control zones, poultry operations were able to conduct “business as usual,” Tennessee Department of Agriculture spokesperson Heather Orne said.

(Senior trade editor Bill Tomson contributed to this article)


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