Three states report more avian flu outbreaks in poultry

Chicken flock
Chicken flock

Delaware, Maryland, and Missouri reported more highly pathogenic avian flu outbreaks at commercial poultry farms, part of ongoing activity over the past several weeks that has led to the loss of nearly 3 million chickens and turkeys.

Also, federal officials reported 50 more highly pathogenic H5 detections from testing in wild birds, including the first in waterfowl in Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska.

Locations include Delmarva poultry production area

Delaware reported a second outbreak in New Castle County, near Wilmington on the Delaware Bay, which was confirmed on Mar 8 and affected 265,000 pullet chickens, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS).

In neighboring Maryland, the state also reported a second outbreak, this time at a broiler flock of 150,000 birds in Queen Anne County in the eastern half of the state, according to the USDA. A joint statement from the agriculture departments in Delaware and Maryland said the outbreaks involve H5N1. They added that state and federal officials have dramatically expanded surveillance to protect poultry in the Delmarva Peninsula.

The Delmarva Peninsula poultry production area also includes Virginia's eastern shore. The Delmarva Chicken Association said about 12% of the nation's poultry supply comes from the area and that the recent outbreaks are the region's first since 2004. It noted that the two earlier outbreaks in Delaware and Maryland involved layer farms.

Elsewhere, Missouri reported two more outbreaks in addition to earlier detections in Bates County (backyard poultry) and Stoddard County (commercial chickens). In an update, the Missouri Department of Agriculture said the virus struck a turkey farm housing 27,000 birds in Jasper Country and a commercial poultry farm housing 37,770 in Lawrence County. Both locations are in southwestern Missouri.

First wild bird detections in 4 states

In other avian flu developments, APHIS reported 50 more highly pathogenic H5 detections from wild bird sampling, including the first in waterfowl in Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska, raising the total to 357 from 20 states.

Indiana's positive sample was from a wild duck harvested by a hunter in Dubois County, which had already reported outbreaks on turkey farms. Kansas has five detections, all involving hunter-harvested snow geese in Barton County, which is in the central part of the state.

Meanwhile, Missouri had 22 detections, all involving hunter-harvested birds and mostly in snow geese. One was in Buchanan County in the northwest, while the others were in Chariton County, located in the north central part of the state. Nebraska's detection was in a wild goose found dead in Lancaster County, in the southeastern part of the state near Lincoln.

The other detections were in states where testing had already found the virus in waterfowl or other birds: Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Most of the birds were tested after they were found dead.

The outbreaks in wild birds and poultry involve the Eurasian H5N1 strain that is circulating in a number of world regions, including Europe, where the virus has caused substantial poultry losses. The virus has also sickened one person in the United Kingdom who had close contact with poultry. The risk to humans is thought to be low, except for people who have close contact with sick birds.

Monitoring is under way in the United States in people exposed to the affected flocks, and so far, no illnesses have been reported.

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