Tennessee ‘bird flu’ outbreak no risk to people, but watch chickens

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Tennessee 'bird flu' outbreak no risk to people, but watch chickens
Tennessee 'bird flu' outbreak no risk to people, but watch chickens
Tennessee 'bird flu' outbreak no risk to people, but watch chickens
Tennessee ‘bird flu’ outbreak no risk to people, but watch chickens

Bird flu cases discovered this past week in Tennessee and Wisconsin have prompted a new wave of anxiety for poultry producers.

State agriculture officials say no additional cases of avian flu have been found within a 10-mile radius of a Lincoln County facility were it was detected earlier this month.

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture was alerted to the presence of a strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), informally known as bird flu, at the southern Middle Tennessee facility on March 3.

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Agriculture officials put down more than 73,000 chickens at the facility, which is a supplier for Tyson Foods.

The agriculture department said Monday it still investigating the source of the virus, but no additional poultry within the 10-mile surveillance area have shown signs of illness, and all samples from poultry within the surveillance area have tested negative for HPAI.

USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories has confirmed the virus affecting the Lincoln County facility is H7N9. This is not the same virus as the China H7N9 virus affecting Asia, the department said.

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HPAI does not pose a risk to the food supply. The agriculture department said none of the affected animals have entered the food chain and the risk of human infection is very low.

“This is highly pathogenic for birds, it’s not for us one bit. This is not for humans at all,” said Dr. Lou Strickland, a veterinarian with the University of Tennessee Extension. “You’d have to physically have contact with the sick animal to actually have any transfer of disease.”

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Officials said they will continue monitoring commercial and backyard poultry for signs of influenza, and all flocks in the surveillance area will be tested again.

Bertha R. Massie

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