Avian influenza detected on Tennessee farm

After agents from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found a strain of the bird flu virus at a facility in Tennessee that supplies chickens to Tyson foods.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said on Sunday that a farm in southern Tennessee that is a supplier to Tyson Foods Inc had been infected with the virus.

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Strains of influenza A are generally identified by two types of proteins they carry on their surface, the neuraminidase (N) and hemagglutinin (H) proteins.

The spread of bird flu would represent a financial blow for operators because it would kill birds or require flocks to be culled, and it would trigger more import bans from other countries.

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In the United Kingdom, an outbreak of bird flu last week led to the culling of more than 55,000 ducks believed to be infected. The turkey flock was tested after numerous birds showed signs of depression and the infected farm was immediately quarantined.

A commercial Tyson farm in Alabama that borders Lincoln County tested negative, officials said in a news release.

Samples from the affected flock, which experienced increased mortality, were tested at Tennessee's Kord Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory and confirmed at the APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa.

The farmers of the affected farm have been advised to bury the bodies of the dead chicken, to avoid spreading of the virus. "AVA would like to reassure the public that poultry in Singapore are free from highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) and are safe for consumption", the agency said. It is the first time HPAI has been found in Tennessee, the state government said.

The main concern over the spread of HPAI is its ability to wipe out a massive number of birds and that forces price increases on chicken products. Results are known before the birds are processed, the company said, and animals are not used if bird flu is detected. The risk of human infection in poultry outbreaks is low, although in China people have died this winter amid an outbreak of the H7N9 virus in birds.


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