Alabama officials investigate 3 avian flu detections

Chicken swabbing
Chicken swabbing

Texas A&M AgriLife / Flickr cc

Alabama agriculture officials are investigating suspected avian flu outbreaks at three locations in the northern part of the state, close to where H7N9 outbreaks—one highly pathogenic and one low pathogenic—were recently reported on two Tennessee farms.

State officials in Alabama were already on high alert for avian flu, because parts of the state were in the control zone that had been placed around the Tennessee outbreak area. Alabama authorities have not said what avian flu strain is suspected, but they noted that samples are on their way the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, for further testing.

Alabama's Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) today announced a stop movement for certain poultry.

Tony Frazier, DVM, Alabama's state veterinarian, said in a statement, "With three investigations of avian influenza in north Alabama on three separate premises we feel that the stop movement order is the most effective way to implement biosecurity for all poultry in our state."

Farm, backyard flock, flea market involved

One of the suspected outbreaks involves a commercial breeder operation in Lauderdale County, located in the far northwestern corner of the state where birds haven't shown significant mortality. Another is a backyard flock in Madison County near Huntsville. Both counties are on the Tennessee border.

Officials said the third location is the TaCo-Bet Trade Day flea market in Scottsboro, Ala., in Jackson County, about 40 miles east of Huntsville. As part of Alabama's highly pathogenic avian flu preparedness response plan, poultry technicians from the USDA collected samples from birds on the premises on Mar 12, which indicated suspected avian influenza.

Amy Belcher, spokeswoman for the ADAI, said there are no epidemiologic connections between the outbreak locations in Tennessee and in Alabama, Reuters reported today. Ray Hilburn, associate director of the Alabama Poultry and Egg Association, told the news service that infected birds have been culled, but he didn't say how many.

The ADAI said it and the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service are working together closely on a joint incident response.

According to the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, the state is the nation's second largest broiler producer, part of its $15 billion poultry and egg industry.

See also:

Mar 14 ADAI statement

Mar 14 Reuters story

Mar 7 CIDRAP News story "North American-origin H7N9 isolated from Tennessee farm"

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