Avian influenza or bird flu has struck a U.S. poultry operation for the fourth consecutive year. An outbreak of the highly pathogenic H7 strain on a farm in Lincoln County, Tennessee has led to the destruction of 73,500 chickens. Thirty other farms within a 10-mile radius of the affected farm are under quarantine. Two years ago bird flu caused over $2 billion in losses to the poultry and associated industries in Iowa and Minnesota. Iowa lost 30 million laying hens and 1.5 million turkeys. Minnesota lost 9 million birds, mostly turkeys. Nationally in 2015, 50 million birds died because of avian influenza.
Don Roose, President of U.S. Commodities said the cattle and hog industries are trying to determine if the news is a positive or a negative right now. “The market is kind of handcuffed right now because one, we already have massive supplies of pork coming at us, we have an increase in beef and poultry production so the last thing we need is some kind of a slowdown in our poultry export demand that backs up poultry supplies in the United States.”
Roose called that the negative, however he added, “on the positive side, it could mean an increase in exports for pork trying to displace some of that lost poultry demand overseas but for now it’s a real question mark.”
There are no known cases of avian influenza in Indiana, according to Indiana State Board of Animal Health Public Information Director Denise Derrer. She added, “Indiana’s commercial poultry industry is diligent about monitoring and testing for avian influenza. Laboratory submissions to test for AI are not uncommon. Fortunately, the tests routinely come back negative and a confirmed case is highly unusual.”
USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) is quick to caution the public that the H7 avian “bird flu” being experienced in Tennessee is of the North American wild bird lineage, a virus that is genetically distinct from the China H7N9 lineage that has infected both poultry and people in Asia.
A case of the lower pathogenic H5N8 strain has been confirmed in Wisconsin.
According to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), 13 strains of Avian flu were detected in 77 countries from January 2014 through the end of 2016. Countless birds — both wild and domestic — had to be destroyed. The United States was getting a break from bird flu, but not Asia and Europe. As more outbreaks have occurred, countries have had to make adjustments in their poultry sources.
The sudden return of the bird flu to the U.S. has again underlined the need for poultry operations to up their biosecurity game, according to both government and industry experts. USDA’s program to help is called Defend the Flock.