Tenn. Department of Agriculture briefs public on bird flu case

Avian influenza at Tyson Foods supplier led to 73,500 chickens destroyed

NASHVILLE (WATE) – Tens of thousands of chickens were destroyed at a Tennessee chicken farm due to a bird flu outbreak and 30 other farms within a six-mile radius have been quarantined.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says 73,500 chickens were destroyed and will not enter the food system. The highly pathogenic H7 avian influenza, or HPAI, can be deadly to chickens and turkeys.

Tennessee’s Department of Agriculture declined to name the breeder and would only say it is located in Lincoln County, just west of Chattanooga. The breeder supplies Tyson Foods Inc.

“Many Tennessee families rely on the poultry industry for their livelihoods, and the state is working closely with local, county and federal partners and the poultry industry to control the situation and protect the flocks that are critical to our state’s economy,” Gov. Bill Haslam said.

FILE – In this Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2009, file photo, a Tyson Foods, Inc., truck is parked at a food warehouse in Little Rock, Ark. Tyson Foods said Monday, March 6, 2017, a strain of bird flu sickened chickens at a poultry breeder that supplies it with birds. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the 73,500 birds at the Lincoln County, Tenn., facility were destroyed and none of the birds from the flock will enter the food system. The H7 strain of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, or HPAI, can be deadly for chickens and turkeys. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston, File)

Tyson Foods Inc. said that it doesn’t expect its chicken business to be disrupted, but shares of the Springdale, Arkansas, food producer slid three percent in early trading Monday. No other flocks have experienced an increase in mortality, but the Tennessee Department of Agriculture said they are testing and monitoring other flocks.

“Animal health is our top priority,” state veterinarian, Dr. Charles Hatcher, DVM said. “With this HPAI detection, we are moving quickly and aggressively to prevent the virus from spreading.”

This is the first time highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI has been detected in Tennessee, however low path avian influenza has affected Tennessee poultry flocks in the past. The Tennessee Health Department said the risk of human infection with avian influenza during poultry outbreaks is very low.

“I want to reassure all of you that this particular strain of Avian flu poses no risk to the food supply,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Jai Templeton said. “This is not the type of bird flu that is known to be communicable to humans nor is it the type that affected the Midwest in 2015, that said we are working on this site.”

Officials encourage owners of commercial and backyard poultry flocks to closely observe their birds. Report a sudden increase in the number of sick birds or bird deaths to the state veterinarian’s office at 615- 837-5120 and/or USDA at 1-866-536-7593.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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