The H5N2 avian influenza virus has taken another big and unexplained jump, invading eight more Minnesota turkey farms in six counties and crossing the border to hit a turkey farm in northwestern Iowa, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today.
The new Minnesota outbreaks raise the state's total since early march to 22, with the number of affected turkeys well above 1 million. Three of the six counties cited in today's announcement are facing their first incursion of the virus.
Today's report, combined with a USDA list of earlier outbreaks, indicates a total of 32 H5N2 outbreaks in commercial poultry in the Midwest since the beginning of March. All but one of those have involved turkeys; yesterday a chicken-farm outbreak was reported in southeastern Wisconsin.
The Minnesota toll
In Minnesota, the virus hit Swift County for the first time, affecting two farms housing 154,000 and 160,000 turkeys. The county is in west-central Minnesota and adjoins Kandiyohi County, which is the state's top turkey-producing county and also has a newly reported outbreak, its fourth, on a farm with 30,000 turkeys.
Also hit for the first time were Redwood County in the southwestern part of the state and La Sueur County, which lies southwest of the Twin Cities. The affected farms have 56,000 and 21,500 turkeys, respectively.
The other new outbreaks included two in centrally located Meeker County (and Kandiyohi's neighbor on the east), where flocks of 20,000 and 25,000 turkeys were infected, and the fifth outbreak in Stearns County in the central part of the state, where a farm with 76,000 turkeys was hit. Stearns is second in the state in turkey production.
As in the previous incidents, the virus was first detected by testing at the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, with confirmation by the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services lab in Ames, Iowa.
All told, the eight new outbreaks affected 542,500 birds in the country's leading turkey-producing state.
Iowa incident, New Mexico finding
In Iowa, the H5N2 virus invaded a flock of 27,000 turkeys in Buena Vista County, which lies about 55 miles east of Sioux City. Increased deaths in the flock prompted testing by the Iowa State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and confirmation by the APHIS lab in Ames.
For all the outbreaks, the USDA announced plans to conduct standard response steps, including euthanization of all surviving turkeys, quarantine and disinfection of the sites, and testing of domestic and wild birds in a wide area around each farm.
In other US developments, a highly pathogenic avian flu virus was detected in a cinnamon teal duck at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in southern New Mexico, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish announced today.
The agency said the duck was one of 196 birds tested at the refuge and was the first bird in the state to test positive for it. It didn't specify the strain, but it said the virus first surfaced in the United States in late 2014, implying that it was either H5N2 or H5N8. Both viruses were first detected in Washington state in December.
It is unknown whether the duck was migrating through New Mexico, the announcement said, adding that most migratory birds have left the refuge for their northern nesting areas.
Elsewhere, new highly pathogenic avian flu outbreaks were reported by India, Palestine, and Taiwan.
In India, the H5N1 virus struck poultry in Ranga Reddy district, not far from Hyderabad, the Times of India reported today. Authorities culled 200,000 birds, restricted poultry movements in a 10-kilometer radius around the location, and banned the sale of eggs and poultry.
Officials said the H5N1 virus was confirmed at a lab in Bhopal. The outbreak occurred in Telangana state, in southern India.
Palestinian officials yesterday reported that a highly pathogenic H5 virus struck backyard birds in the Gaza Strip, according to a report to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). The virus killed 60 of 150 susceptible birds, and the remaining 90 were destroyed to curb its spread.
Another H5 outbreak was reported in Gaza Strip birds on Apr 4, and H5N1 outbreaks have been reported recently at other locations in the Palestinian Territories and Israel.
Meanwhile, animal health officials in Taiwan today reported two highly pathogenic H5N2 outbreaks, both in Yunlin County in the western part of the island, according to a separate OIE report. The virus struck a goose farm and a turkey farm, killing 4,612 of 5,500 susceptible birds. The remaining ones were destroyed.
Animal health officials in Taiwan have been grappling with many outbreaks of H5N8 and H5N2 in recent months, along with H5N3, which the region's veterinary experts have said is a novel strain. The number of outbreaks from all three strains, though, has slowed considerably over the past several weeks.
Apr 14 USDA statement on new Minnesota outbreaks
Apr 14 USDA statement on Iowa outbreak
USDA list of 2015 avian flu outbreaks
Apr 14 New Mexico press release
Apr 14 Times of India story
Apr 13 OIE report on Palestinian outbreak
Apr 14 OIE report on H5N2 in Taiwan