Avian Flu Toll in US Doubles in a Week

US - Five new outbreaks of H5N2 highly pathogenic avian influenza have been confirmed in Minnesota and three in Iowa; seven of these were in commercial turkeys. These bring the total number of confirmed outbreaks to 122 with almost 24 million birds affected. Workers are being laid off at a Minnesota turkey processing plant.
calendar icon 6 May 2015
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A further eight outbreaks of high-path avian flu were confirmed by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the USDA on 4 May:

  • Minnesota, Swift county - commercial turkeys (number pending)
  • Iowa, Sac county - 42,600 commercial turkeys
  • Minnesota, Renville county - commercial turkeys (number pending)
  • Minnesota, Meeker county - 30,400 commercial turkeys
  • Iowa, Madison county - 1,795,900 commercial chickens
  • Minnesota, Kandiyohi county - commercial turkeys (number pending)
  • Minnesota, Kandiyohi county - commercial turkeys (number pending)
  • Iowa, Cherokee county - 44,700 commercial turkeys.

In each of these outbreaks, the cause has been confirmed as the H5N2 subtype of highly pathogenic avian influenza virus of mixed Eurasian and American origin.

All these outbreaks are in the area of the Mississippi flyway for migrating birds.

Three more outbreaks suspected in Iowa

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship reported on 5 May that it is responding to three probable cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in commercial poultry farms:

  • Buena Vista county 9 - turkey farm (number pending)
  • Buena Vista county 10 - turkey farm (number pending)
  • Sioux county 4 - 60,000 commercial layers.

In each outbreak, increased mortality was observed. Initial testing was positive for H5 avian influenza. Additional confirmatory testing is pending from the APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames.

State officials have quarantined the premises and once the presence of the disease is confirmed, all birds on the property will be humanely euthanised to prevent the spread of the disease.

If confirmed, these four new cases would bring the state total so far to 25 outbreaks.

Two new outbreaks suspected in Minnesota; first processing plant lays off staff

On 5 May, the Minnesota Board of Animal Health announced two presumptive positive flocks.

Both suspected outbreaks are in turkeys in Kandiyohi county. The numbers of birds affected are still pending.

These bring the total number of birds affected in Minnesota to 5,487,232 (excluding pending flocks) on 82 farms in 21 counties.

Bird flu has begun to claim Minnesota meat plant jobs, idling 233 workers at a Jennie-O plant in Faribault, reports Star Tribune.

The temporary cuts are the first publicly announced lay-offs connected with the avian flu.

Jennie-O, a division of Austin-based Hormel Foods, has been hit hard since the bird flu surfaced in Minnesota two months ago. Jennie-O is the nation’s second largest turkey processor, relying on Minnesota and Wisconsin for its birds.

The company said in a statement it will move to a single processing shift in Faribault for the “foreseeable future,” effective on 26 May.

Wisconsin: new theory over virus spread

A highly contagious avian influenza virus has spread to 1.1 million chickens in Wisconsin – or 20.4 per cent of the state’s egg-laying chicken population – after a third commercial facility in Jefferson County learned it was infected.

John Brunnquell, the president of Egg Innovations, a Port Washington-based egg-laying company with 60 farms in five states told Chippewa Herald: “We believe all these infections you’re hearing about now are from facility to facility.”

The theory gaining the most steam is that the virus has mutated so that it can stay active on feathers, dust or manure long enough to reach a poultry facility by air after it is blown out of another facility’s exhaust system that is located nearby.

Warning over possible egg price rises ahead

Experts said the cost could more than double in the coming weeks as a result of the bird flu, according to Channel 3000.

Overview of high-path avian flu outbreaks in US poultry

The following information is based on published USDA APHIS outbreak reports:

  • The latest cases bring the total number of confirmed high-path avian flu outbreaks since December 2014 to 122.
  • Outbreaks have occurred in poultry in 13 states.
  • Three of the early outbreaks were caused by the H5N8 sub-type of the virus but in all those since mid-February 2015, an H5N2 variant of mixed Eurasian and American origin has been confirmed.
  • The majority of outbreaks have been in commercial turkeys (92); 17 have been in commercial chickens, one in a mixed commercial flock and 12 in backyard flocks.
  • The number of poultry affected by these outbreaks now exceeds 23.98 million. This figure includes more than 19.29 million commercial chickens and 4.61 million commercial turkeys as well as 7,173 backyard poultry.
  • The disease has also affected five captive wild birds.

Further Reading

You can visit the Avian Flu page by clicking here.

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