Bird Flu Cases Probed in One of the Largest US Chicken States

Cage free hens are kept in cages at an egg farm in San Diego County.   REUTERS  Mike Blake

Cage free hens are kept in cages at an egg farm in San Diego County. REUTERS Mike Blake

One flock of chickens at a commercial breeder operation located in Lauderdale County, Ala. was found suspect for avian influenza.

Bird flu has infected poultry at three sites in northern Alabama shortly after being found at two farms in neighboring Tennessee, and more chickens have been culled to contain the virus, state and industry officials in Alabama said on Tuesday.

Samples from both premises were sent to the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa, to be tested for the virus.

"The health of poultry is critically important at this time", said Dr. Frazier.

Tennessee officials confirmed a less unsafe strain of bird flu was found in Giles County, Tennessee, which borders Lincoln County Tennessee, the site of high pathogenic avian influenza found more than a week ago.

State agriculture officials and executives at a major poultry operation have announced thousands of chickens at three farms have been euthanized over the suspected presence of bird flu.

Alabama has not received any definitive test results that show its cases are highly pathogenic, said Amy Belcher, spokeswoman for the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries.

The order restricting movement of poultry in the state applies to bird traveling to flea markets, auctions and any types of exhibitions, according to Ray Hilburn, associate director of the Alabama Poultry & Egg Association. The second location was a backyard flock in Madison County, Ala.

Last week the USDA completed testing on bird flu samples from Lincoln County, Tenn., confirming the strain as H7N9 HPAI.

The Alabama Department of Agriculture is holding a press conference today to provide updates. "Our staff is committed to staying actively involved in the avian influenza situation until any threats are addressed".

As for those potential cases of bird flu in Alabama, Hess says those were discovered through routine surveillance.

Dr. Frazier encourages commercial poultry producers and backyard flock owners to observe their birds closely and continue to practice strict biosecurity measures.

South Korea banned imports of all US poultry following the Tennessee bird-flu findings, according to its agriculture ministry.

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