A strain of bird flu has been detected on a Tennessee farm contracted to Tyson Foods Inc., the biggest chicken meat producer in the United States.
The strain was detected in a chicken breeder flock, and the 73,500 birds will be culled to stop the virus from entering the food system, government and company officials said on Sunday.
This case represents the first confirmed case of highly pathogenic H7 avian influenza (HPAI) in commercial poultry in the United States this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said.
Tyson said in a statement that it was working with Tennessee and federal officials to contain the virus by euthanizing the birds on the contracted farm.
A widespread outbreak of HPAI in the United States, in 2014 and 2015, killed nearly 50millions birds, mostly egg-laying hens. The losses of the birds pushed U.S. egg prices to a record high and prompted trading partners to ban imports of American poultry.
No people were affected during that outbreak, which was primarily of the H5N2 strain. The risk of human infection during a poultry outbreak is low, however, people in China have died this winter amid an outbreak of the H7N9 virus in birds.
The facility in Tennessee has been placed under quarantine, along with approximately 30 other poultry farms that are within a 6.2-mile radius of the infected site, the state said. The state also added that other flocks in the quarantined area are being tested.
The facility involved was not named. The food giant said it did not expect that this would disrupt its chicken business.
More information should be made available Monday evening by the USDA, about the strain of the virus that is involved, spokeswoman Donna Karlsons said by email.
HPAI bird flu was last found in Indiana in January 2016, in a commercial turkey flock.
The USDA also said that it will inform the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and international trading partners about the outbreak.
Tennessee’s broiler production is the third-largest generator of cash receipts in agriculture for the state, but it is still too small to rank it in the top five U.S. producing states.
The USDA detected bird flu in wild duck in Montana, in January, that appeared to match one of the strains also found in the 2014 and 2015 outbreak.
The U.S. has stepped up biosecurity measures aimed at preventing the spread of bird flu after the outbreak two years ago.