Tyson Foods chickens infected with highly lethal bird flu
CHICAGO, Feb 11 (Reuters) – U.S. poultry producers are tightening safety measures for their flocks as disease experts warn that wild birds are likely spreading a highly lethal form of avian flu across the country.
Indiana on Wednesday reported highly pathogenic bird flu on a commercial turkey farm, leading China, South Korea and Mexico to ban poultry imports from the state. The outbreak put the U.S. industry on edge at a time that labor shortages are fueling food inflation.
The disease is already widespread in Europe and affecting Africa, Asia and Canada, but the outbreak in Indiana, which is on a migratory bird pathway, particularly rattled U.S. producers. A devastating U.S. bird-flu outbreak in 2015 killed nearly 50 million birds, mostly turkeys and egg-laying chickens in the Midwest.
The United States is the world’s largest producer and second-largest exporter of poultry meat, according to the U.S. government.
“Everyone is just sitting on edge because we know what can happen and we don’t want a repeat of that,” said Denise Heard, vice president of research for the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, an industry group.
Poultry company Perdue Farms suspended in-person visits to farms to avoid spreading the disease, spokeswoman Diana Souder said.
Iowa’s Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig said a confirmed case in the country meant heightened risk for all.
“It’s time to move to a higher alert for our livestock producers,” Naig said.
Disease experts said a wild bird likely spread the H5N1 virus, which can be transmitted to humans, to Indiana from the East Coast, where officials have confirmed that wild ducks were infected with the strain.
The U.S. Agriculture Department called the disease low risk to people.
Tyson Foods Inc heightened biosecurity measures in its East Coast facilities after the wild bird flu infections, the company said on an earnings call on Monday. It said it reduced the number of trips to farms and started taking more time to clean vehicles.
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