U.S. reports low pathogenic bird flu outbreak in Wisconsin: OIE

PARIS (Reuters) – The United States reported an outbreak of avian flu on a farm in Wisconsin, the second in the country in less than a week although the virus found this time is considered less virulent, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) said on Tuesday.

A strain of low pathogenic H5N2 avian flu has been discovered in a flock of 84,000 turkeys in Barron County, Wisconsin, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said in a report posted on the website of the Paris-based OIE.

The USDA said the turkey flock was tested after birds showed signs of depression and the infected premises were quarantined.

The new outbreak comes after the detection of highly pathogenic H7 bird flu last week in a chicken breeder flock in Tennessee farm contracted by U.S. food giant Tyson Foods Inc.

As opposed to highly pathogenic strains which can cause high mortality rates among poultry, low pathogenic ones typically cause few or no clinical signs in birds.

In 2014 and 2015, during a widespread outbreak of highly pathogenic avian flu, primarily of the H5N2 strain, the United States killed nearly 50 million birds, mostly egg-laying hens. The losses pushed U.S. egg prices to record highs.

The USDA said tests had shown that the H5N2 virus detected in Wisconsin was of North American wild bird origin and distinct from the H5N2 viruses found in 2015.

The risk of human infection in poultry outbreaks is low, although in China more than 110 people died this winter amid an outbreak of the H7N9 virus in birds.

The detection of a first case of bird flu in the United States this year prompted several Asian countries, including South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong, to limit imports of U.S. poultry.

(Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide and Gus Trompiz, editing by David Evans)

Post Holdings Losing 35 Percent Of Eggs To Avian Flu

Post Holdings announced that a third company-owned chicken farm in Nebraska has been infected with avian flu.  The infection means that the company has lost 35 percent of their egg crop.

The company, which makes Raisin Bran and other well known cereals, said they are still working on the financial impact of the major loss.  The loss is so significant that the situation is being declared a “force majeure event” that will allow the company to get out contract obligations for egg deliveries because of an event out of their control.

The outbreak continues to spread throughout the midwest.  Nebraska Department of Agriculture officials confirmed another poultry farm infected with over 3 million hens in Knox County. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety said three more turkey flocks have been infected with the flu.  Iowa’s Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship reported one new infection in a county with three other outbreaks.

The outbreak has caused at least one tradition to be suspended.  The Indiana Board of Animal Health has said that all bird shows at county fairs and the state fair will be prohibited until the outbreak ends.

“We are very concerned about bird health,” said Denise Derrer, a spokeswoman for the Indiana Board of Animal Health. “This decision wasn’t done lightly, and it wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction to a single backyard flock.”

The total number of deaths from the virus has been 40 million birds.

First North American H5N1 Death Confirmed

The first death from the H5N1 Avian Flu in North America has been confirmed in Canada.

Canadian public health officials did not release the identity of the victim but said they had been in China before flying to Vancouver on December 27th.  They had reported being ill when they were on the flight from Beijing.

The patient was admitted to the hospital on New Year’s Day and died two days later.

Officials have contacted everyone on the Beijing to Vancouver flight for immediate testing for H5N1 but believe there is a very low risk to the flight passengers because of the rarity of human-to-human transmission.

“The risk of getting H5N1 is very low,” Health Minister Rona Ambrose said. “This case is not part of the seasonal flu, which circulates in Canada every year.”

In addition to the flight passengers, close contacts of the victim and the healthcare workers that treated them are also being screened for the virus.