The Tennessee Department of Agriculture Sunday confirmed a highly contagious form of avian influenza — bird flu — at a commercial breeding facility in south-central Tennessee.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said it was the first confirmed case of the viral infection this year. The USDA said there are 73,500 birds in the flock, which will be destroyed to keep them out of the food chain.
The source of the H7 virus has yet to be identified. It can travel in wild birds without them appearing to be sick.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said the state is working with local, county and federal officials to control the situation to “protect the flocks that are critical to our state’s economy.” The agriculture departments’ statements did not identify the facility involved, saying only that it was in Lincoln County, whose largest city is Fayetteville.
The highly pathogenic form of the virus can be deadly to domesticated chickens and turkeys. The state began investigating the situation Friday when the breeding facility reported an increase in chicken deaths.
“With this [bird flu] detection, we are moving quickly and aggressively to prevent the virus from spreading,” state veterinarian Dr. Charles Hatcher said.
In addition to the facility that reported the virus, 30 other poultry farms in a 6-mile radius have been quarantined. Previous outbreaks of bird flu in Tennessee have involved a less virulent form.
The strain of bird flu involved is the same that struck Midwestern poultry farms in 2015, hitting Minnesota and Iowa particularly hard and killing 48 million birds. Last year a commercial turkey flock in Indiana reported the virus.
The 2015 outbreak sent egg prices soaring and led to significant increases in chicken, turkey and other poultry prices.
Tennessee agriculture officials said the virus does not pose a risk to the food supply, and it is unlikely it will be transmitted to humans although precautions are being taken to monitor workers at the infected facility.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says this form of bird flu can kill off an entire flock within 48 hours.
Tennessee has more than 1,650 commercial broiler and breeding operations on more than 550 family farms, ranking 13th nationally in broiler production, the Tennessee Poultry Association told the Associated Press.