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Missouri turkeys turn up with low-path bird flu

A commercial flock of about 20,000 turkeys in southwestern Missouri has turned up with low-pathogenicity (“low-path”) H7N1 avian flu, marking the first such case in the U.S. this year.

The flock was on a turkey farm in Jasper County, about 140 km northwest of Branson. Missouri is on the Mississippi flyway for migratory birds, which generally runs up into Ontario, Manitoba and parts of Saskatchewan.

According to the report filed Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture with the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), the flock has shown no clinical signs of bird flu or increased death loss. The virus was discovered Feb. 26 during routine pre-slaughter testing and surveillance for H5 and H7 avian flus.

USDA said its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and Missouri state officials are investigating further and have set up “enhanced surveillance and testing” in the area.

Two other commercial poultry operations located within 10 km of the farm have tested negative for avian flu, USDA said.

The farm, which housed 20,000 birds, has been quarantined and is to be depopulated of birds through “controlled marketing,” which, according to Ontario’s Feather Board Command Centre, is a strategy allowing poultry either infected with or exposed to low-path H5 or H7 viruses to move to market on a “limited basis.”

According to Health Canada, there’s no evidence to suggest the consumption of thoroughly cooked poultry or eggs can transmit avian flu to humans. Rather, evidence suggests the most likely means of transmission of an avian flu virus to people is close human contact with live infected birds.

According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, H5 and H7 subtypes of avian flu are of particular concern in live poultry, as they’ve shown an ability to mutate from low-path to high-path after they infect domestic birds.

Ontario’s agriculture ministry, in an unrelated industry update Wednesday, cautioned that poultry flocks are at an “increased risk of (avian flu) infection” during spring and fall wild bird migration.

According to the ag ministry’s animal health and welfare branch, birds become infected with avian influenza by way of direct contact with “ocular or nasal discharge or feces from infected birds” or from contacting contaminated surfaces, food or water.

Avian flu can be brought into a barn through “lapses in biosecurity,” the ministry said, and is most often transmitted from one infected commercial flock to another by movement of infected birds, contaminated equipment or people.

All poultry farmers should monitor bird mortality, and track flock feed and water consumption, the ministry said.

Farmers will want to monitor for “clinical signs” of avian flu infection, such as depression, decreased feed consumption, a drop in egg production, swollen wattles, sneezing, gasping, discharge from the nose or eyes, diarrhea or sudden death. — AGCanada.com Network

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