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Tennessee avian flu crisis over, containment measures lifted

Tennessee’s statewide poultry health advisory is lifted, and poultry owners can now resume regular activity.

Tennessee’s state veterinarian has released the control zone surrounding two Lincoln County poultry farms affected by highly pathogenic avian influenza.
The statewide poultry health advisory is also lifted, and poultry owners can now resume regular activity.

“We have determined through extensive testing that HPAI has not spread to other poultry flocks in our 10 kilometer control zone,” Dr. Charles Hatcher said in a written statement. “Poultry owners across Tennessee should continue to monitor their flocks and immediately report any spike in illness or death.”
On March 4, the first confirmed detection of H7N9 HPAI occurred in a commercial chicken flock in Lincoln County, Tenn. On March 14, samples from a commercial flock on a premises less than two miles away also tested positive for the same strain of avian influenza.

Once HPAI was detected, the flocks were depopulated and buried and animal health officials established a controlled zone in the 10 kilometer radius of the affected facilities. Poultry movement was restricted within the zone and birds from commercial and backyard flocks were tested weekly for three weeks. No additional samples have tested positive for avian influenza and testing is now complete. Cleaning and disinfection continues at the two affected premises.

“We greatly appreciate the hard work of all involved in this response,” said Tennessee Commissioner of Agriculture Jai Templeton. “From our staff and partners on the local, state and federal level to the flock owners and all connected to the poultry industry—this was truly a team effort. I certainly hope Tennessee never has to deal with this situation again, but should we face another challenge, I am confident that our state is prepared.”

On March 8, a commercial chicken flock in Giles County tested positive for H7N9 low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI). The flock was depopulated and buried and domesticated poultry within a 10 kilometer radius of that premises were also tested and monitored for illness. That surveillance zone was released on March 30.

Although the Tennessee Department of Agriculture did not prohibit poultry exhibitions, shows or sales during this avian influenza situation, the department issued a poultry health advisory and discouraged commingling of birds. Should avian influenza be detected again in the state, the department may take additional action.

Neither HPAI nor LPAI pose a risk to the food supply. No affected animals entered the food chain. Tennessee Department of Health confirms that the risk of a human becoming ill with avian influenza during poultry illness incidents is very low. This virus is not the same as the China H7N9 virus affecting Asia and is genetically distinct.

The primary difference between LPAI and HPAI is mortality rate in domesticated poultry. A slight change to the viral structure can make a virus deadly for birds. Avian influenza virus strains often occur naturally in wild migratory waterfowl without causing illness in those birds. With LPAI, domesticated chickens and turkeys may show little or no signs of illness. However, HPAI is often fatal for domesticated poultry.

The state veterinarian asks poultry owners to remain vigilant in monitoring for flock health and offers the following tips:

  • Closely observe your poultry flock.
  • 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.
  • Prevent contact with wild birds.
  • Practice good biosecurity with your poultry.
  • Enroll in the National Poultry Improvement Plan
TAGS: Regulatory
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