Bird Flu Hits Supplier of Nation's Largest Chicken Producer

USDA Confirms Bird Flu Found at Tennessee Chicken Farm

Officials in Alabama are closely monitoring poultry operations here after thousands of chickens in Lincoln County, Tennessee, were destroyed after avian influenza was found in a commercial breeder flock.

The targeted facility now is under quarantine, as are about 30 other poultry farms in the area, officials said.

It's been a few years since a widespread avian flu outbreak hit US poultry farmers hard, prompting national egg shortages and higher prices for products. "We don't expect disruptions to our chicken business and plan to meet our customers' needs", a spokesman for Tyson, the largest USA meat company by sales, told the Wall Street Journal.

Tennessee's broiler production is the third-largest generator of cash receipts in agriculture for the state, but it is still too small to rank it in the top five USA producing states. Other flocks in the quarantined area are being tested for the virus, it added. It can travel in wild birds without them appearing to be sick. The low pathogenicity strains of the avian flu usually cause very few clinical signs or symptoms in birds while the highly pathogenic strains have high mortality rates.

This is the first known case of avian flu this year in the US but China has confirmed 460 human infections since October.

HPAI bird flu was last found in IN in January 2016, in a commercial turkey flock.

The spread of bird flu would represent a financial blow for operators because it would kill birds or require flocks to be culled, and it would trigger more import bans from other countries.

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About 30 nearby poultry farms are also under quarantine, while none have reported an increase in bird deaths, Tennessee's agriculture department said. It led to the destruction of almost 50 million birds to stem the spread of the disease to other flocks, sending the cost of eggs and turkeys skyward.

Officials said HPAI poses no risk to the food supply, and no affected chickens entered the food chain.

"Animal health is our top priority", said Tennessee state veterinarian Charles Hatcher.

In the United Kingdom, an outbreak of bird flu last week led to the culling of more than 55,000 ducks believed to be infected.

Poultry producers were quick to respond following the latest bird flu case.

While the outbreak is only Tennessee right now, farmers like Hickey said it's still risky because they could lose everything.

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