Bird flu outbreak worries poultry industry

News Staff - March 5, 2017

CHATTANOOGA, TN – After surviving the largest and most expensive animal disease outbreak in U.S. history, South Dakota’s turkey, chicken and egg producers – with federal assistance – have worked hard to rid themselves of the avian bird flu that killed over 50 million turkeys and chickens nation-wide in 2015.

So it’s not good news that another outbreak is occurring in Tennessee where a breeder for Tyson Foods Inc., has had almost 74,000 chickens destroyed in efforts to stop the highly pathogenic H7 avian influenza, or HPAI, from spreading. Thirty other farms within a six-mile radius are being quarantined.

The company said that it doesn't expect its chicken business to be disrupted, but shares of the Springdale, AR, food producer slid three percent in early trading Monday, March 6, 2017.

Tennessee's Department of Agriculture declined to name the breeder and would only say it is located in the state's Lincoln County, just west of Chattanooga.

The 2015 outbreak resulted in the loss of over $3 billion dollars in direct and indirect costs. In addition, the US Department of Agriculture committed $500 million to emergency efforts to block the disease, and paid out $190 million to farmers whose birds were destroyed.  South Dakota lost 640,000 turkeys and along with Nebraska and Minnesota, millions of egg-laying hens.

At the time, some experts predicted the largest animal-health emergency in the country’s history was just an opening act.  At risk the next time they warned would not be just the egg and turkey farms of the Midwest, but the billions of birds being raised in the poultry-producing centers on the east and west coasts—effectively, most of the poultry economy of the United States.

But South Dakota State Veterinarian Dustin Oedekoven points to an avian flu outbreak in  2016 in Indiana that didn’t reach South Dakota’s flocks, due to better security and health protocols put in place after the 2015 outbreak.

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