- The recent cases of the bird flu were detected at an Indiana farm.
- Now, the bird flu has been detected at a Tyson Foods farm in Kentucky that houses an estimated 246,000 chickens.
- Health officials say the recent cases currently pose no risk to the public or to food safety.
New confirmed cases of bird flu first noticed in Indiana are spreading among flocks of chickens and turkeys in three states, resulting in tens of thousands of birds testing positive for the virus.
The new cases were reported last week when nearly 30,000 turkeys at a southern Indiana farm were euthanized after the H5N1 strain of avian flu was detected, the first time it had been seen in the U.S. since 2020.
But on Monday and Tuesday, health officials said the same flu strain had been detected in 26,000 turkeys on another Indiana farm, as well as in a mixed flock of birds in Virginia and a flock of broiler chickens at a Tyson Foods farm in Kentucky.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the farms are quarantined and the birds in Virginia have been euthanized. The same will be done to those in Indiana and Kentucky, and another farm in western Kentucky is waiting on lab results.
“The risk is too high of spread to wait until the laboratory confirmation comes in, especially with the presumptive positive and clinical signs in the birds already,” said Denise Derrer Spears, spokesperson for the Indiana board of animal health. “So the owners are taking action to prevent further spread.”
There are an estimated 246,000 chickens at the Tysons farm, but it is unclear how many will be euthanized. Tyson Foods said in a statement to USA TODAY that they were working with Tennessee and Kentucky state officials, as well as federal officials, to prevent the spread.
“Tyson Foods is prepared for situations like this, and we have robust plans in place, which we are now executing. This includes heightening biosecurity measures at other farms in the region, placing additional restrictions on outside visitors and continuing our practice of testing all flocks for avian influenza before birds leave the farms. Tyson Foods’ chicken products remain safe: the USDA confirms that avian influenza does not pose a food safety risk to consumers in poultry that is properly prepared and cooked.
“Because the affected farm in Kentucky is only one of the thousands of farms that raise chickens for our company, the situation is not expected to impact our overall chicken production levels,” the statement read.
It is unclear how the latest bird flu cases began, but health officials have noted that migratory wild birds are likely spreading the disease.
“At this time, our goal is to continue to monitor the presence of (highly pathogenic avian influenza) in wild bird populations, and to quickly identify any instances where the virus spreads to commercial or backyard birds,” the USDA said in a statement to USA TODAY.
Kevin Stiles, executive director of the Iowa Poultry Association and the Iowa Egg Council, told The Associated Press steps were being taken to prevent the flu from entering the state. The state is the nation’s leading egg producer and is home to 49 million chickens.
“IPA is maintaining open communications specifically related to biosecurity best practices and is offering surveillance testing. We are confident in our producers’ preparedness and ability to manage their flocks,” Stiles said.
The National Chicken Council added the chicken industry remains on “high alert,” but plans are in place to control the spread of the virus.
Health officials say no human cases of avian influenza have been detected in the U.S., and the disease doesn’t present an immediate public health concern. The virus can spread from infected birds to people, but such infections are rare and haven’t led to sustained outbreaks among humans.
The 2015 outbreak led producers to kill 33 million egg-laying hens in Iowa and 9 million birds in Minnesota, the nation’s leading turkey producer, with smaller outbreaks in Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin. The disease caused egg and turkey prices across the country to soar for months: The cost of eggs was up 61% at one point, and prices for boneless, skinless turkey breasts rose 75% between May and July 2015.
The USDA recommends all bird owners should take precautions in making sure their birds don’t get the virus, such as preventing contact with wild birds.
The National Chicken Council adds farms should take safety measures such as limiting visitors, avoiding the sharing of farm equipment and disinfecting all personnel before they enter a facility.
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