Low-path bird flu turns up in Wisconsin turkeys

(Scott Bauer photo courtesy ARS/USDA)

Paris | Reuters — The U.S. has 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 Organization 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 northwestern Wisconsin’s Barron County, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said in a report posted on the website of the Paris-based OIE.

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.

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 U.S. killed nearly 50 million birds, mostly egg-laying hens. The losses pushed U.S. egg prices to record highs.

Wisconsin is generally within the Mississippi flyway for migratory birds, which in Canada runs through Ontario and areas of Manitoba, Quebec and Nunavut.

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 U.S. this year prompted several Asian countries, including South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong, to limit imports of U.S. poultry.

Reporting for Reuters by Sybille de La Hamaide and Gus Trompiz. Includes files from AGCanada.com Network staff.

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