DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – An infectious and fatal strain of bird flu has been confirmed in a commercial turkey herd in South Carolina, the first case of a more serious type of disease in the United States since 2017 and an alarming development for an industry devastated by previous outbreaks .
High pathogen cases found in an operation in Chesterfield County, South Carolina, mark the first case of a more dangerous strain since it was discovered in a flock of Tennessee chickens in 2017. In 2015, an estimated 50 million poultry must be killed in surgery especially in the Upper Midwest after infection spread to whole region.
“Yes, this is concerned when we look at cases, but we are ready to respond very quickly and that is done in this case,” said Lyndsay Cole, spokeswoman for the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
The USDA has worked in recent months with scientists and farmers in North Carolina and South Carolina, where pathogenic – or less severe – bird flu viruses are detected.
Low pathogenic bird flu causes several clinical signs in infected birds. However, two types of low pathogenic bird flu – types H5 and H7 – can mutate into highly pathogenic forms, which are often fatal to birds and are easily transmitted between susceptible species.
Low pathogenic cases are already in the area near the state lines of South Carolina and North Carolina and the USDA is closely monitoring and testing. The case in Chesterfield County, South Carolina is expected to be another low pathogenic case, but returned from a high pathogen laboratory which means the less severe virus mutates to a more severe version, Cole said.
“Our scientists at the National Veterinary Services Laboratory have seen the viral characteristics of the low-pathway virus and they previously indicated that this is one that is likely to mutate so they watch it very closely,” Cole said.
A laboratory in Ames, Iowa, confirmed the virus that had killed turkey was a type of H7N3 pathogen high in bird flu.
A report on an outbreak indicates it was discovered on 6 April. He killed 1,583 turkeys and the rest of the 32,577 birds in the flock were euthanized.
State officials quarantined agriculture, movement controls were implemented and oversight was enhanced in the area.
“The flock is quickly losing population and will not enter the market,” said Joel Brandenberger, president of the National Turkish Federation, an industry trade group. “Comprehensive disinfectant and cleaning procedures have begun at the site as well as monitoring commercial flocks in the surrounding area. This incident did not pose a threat to public health. Turkish products remain safe and nutritious. “
He said poultry farmers implemented stringent biosecurity measures throughout the year and routinely tested poultry flocks for bird flu.
These steps were carried out after the H5N2 bird flu outbreak, which began in December 2014, swept up commercial chicken, egg laying and turkey populations throughout 2015 which killed 50 million birds and caused $ 3 billion in economic damage. The outbreak is believed to originate from wild birds.
Nearly 90 percent of bird losses occur at egg-laying chicken farms in Iowa and turkey farms in Minnesota. Most of the other cases occurred in the states of Nebraska, Wisconsin, and nearby South Dakota.
Cole said that since 2015 significant planning, training and coordination have taken place between the federal government, state institutions and industry.
Cole said the coronavirus pandemic had not affected the government’s ability to respond to bird flu.
Highly pathogenic H7N9 bird flu strains were detected in Lincoln County, Tennessee, in 73,500 chicken flocks in early March 2017. Ten days later samples from commercial flocks less than two miles away were also tested positive for the same strain. The birds are put to sleep and buried and the virus does not spread further which indicates that immediate mitigation measures can stop the spread.
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