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USDA confirms highly pathogenic H7 avian influenza in a commercial flock in Lincoln County, Tennessee

March 5, 2017, Washington – The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic H7 avian influenza (HPAI) of North American wild bird lineage in a commercial chicken breeder flock in Lincoln County, Tennessee. This is the first confirmed case of HPAI in commercial poultry in the United States this year. The flock of 73,500 is located within the Mississippi flyway. Samples from the affected flock, which experienced increased mortality, were tested at Tennessee’s Kord Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory and confirmed at the APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa.  Virus isolation is ongoing, and NVSL expects to characterize the neuraminidase protein, or “N-type”, of the virus within 48 hours. 

APHIS is working closely with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture on a joint incident response. State officials quarantined the affected premises and birds on the property will be depopulated to prevent the spread of the disease. Birds from the flock will not enter the food system. 

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture is working directly with poultry workers at the affected facility to ensure that they are taking the proper precautions to prevent illness and contain disease spread. As a reminder, the proper handling and cooking of poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165 ˚F kills bacteria and viruses. 

As part of existing avian influenza response plans, Federal and State partners are working jointly on additional surveillance and testing in the nearby area. The United States has the strongest AI surveillance program in the world, and USDA is working with its partners to actively look for the disease in commercial poultry operations, live bird markets and in migratory wild bird populations. 

USDA will be informing the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) as well as international trading partners of this finding. USDA also continues to communicate with trading partners to encourage adherence to OIE standards and minimize trade impacts. OIE trade guidelines call on countries to base trade restrictions on sound science and, whenever possible, limit restrictions to those animals and animal products within a defined region that pose a risk of spreading disease of concern. 

These virus strains can travel in wild birds without them appearing sick. People should avoid contact with sick/dead poultry or wildlife. If contact occurs, wash your hands with soap and water and change clothing before having any contact with healthy domestic poultry and birds. 

All bird owners, whether commercial producers or backyard enthusiasts, should continue to practice good biosecurity, prevent contact between their birds and wild birds, and report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to State/Federal officials, either through their state veterinarian or through USDA’s toll-free number at 1-866-536-7593.  Additional information on biosecurity for can be found at

Additional background 
Avian influenza (AI) is caused by an influenza type A virus which can infect poultry (such as chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail, domestic ducks, geese and guinea fowl) and is carried by free flying waterfowl such as ducks, geese and shorebirds. AI viruses are classified by a combination of two groups of proteins: hemagglutinin or “H” proteins, of which there are 16 (H1–H16), and neuraminidase or “N” proteins, of which there are 9 (N1–N9). Many different combinations of “H” and “N” proteins are possible. Each combination is considered a different subtype, and can be further broken down into different strains. AI viruses are further classified by their pathogenicity (low or high)— the ability of a particular virus strain to produce disease in domestic chickens.

Salmonella outbreak update from the CDC

It’s spring, which means many people are buying chicks and ducklings for backyard flocks. The same biosecurity that should protect your birds from HPAI can help keep your family safe from naturally occuring bacteria that can be associated with poultry.

Last year, there were a record number of Salmonella infections linked to backyard flocks. The Center for Disease Control reported 42 salmonella infections linked to backyard flocks in North Carolina alone last year. Their updated fact sheet shares simple tips to handle and care for backyard flocks while reducing the chance of Salmonella illness.

The CDC has several resources for backyard poultry owners if you visit their website:

Statement from Dr. Doug Meckes, State Veterinarian

On Friday, March 3, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services was notified of a Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza outbreak in a poultry operation in Lincoln County, Tennessee.

The Veterinary Division and the Emergency Programs Division immediately notified staff within the Department to prepare for possible disease response activities in North Carolina or, if called upon to do so, as was the case in the 2015 HPAI outbreak in Minnesota, to provide support of other states should assistance be required.

The situation in Tennessee was closely monitored over the weekend and staff participated in conference calls each day to remain abreast of the situation. The most recent information provided suggests that the Tennessee disease outbreak has been quickly and appropriately managed and the level of threat to North Carolina and other Southeastern states is markedly diminished.

Many North Carolina families rely on the poultry industry for their livelihoods, and the Department will continue to work closely with local, county and federal partners and the poultry industry to help prevent the introduction of disease or immediately respond should the disease be identified here in North Carolina.

Backyard Poultry Owners
Cleaning and Disinfecting Checklist

Cleaning and disinfecting coops and enclosures are important to help keep your birds’ environment healthy. While the process takes some time, your birds are worth the effort.

Use this handy checklist as a guide.

* Move your birds to a separate area so you can do a thorough cleaning.

* Remove all old litter, manure, and other debris.

* “Dry” clean all areas—brush, scrape, and shovel off manure, feathers, and other materials. Disinfectant will not work on top of manure and caked-on dirt.

* “Wet” clean all surfaces—scrub with water and detergent. Work from top to bottom and back to front.

* Rinse all surfaces carefully with water.

* Apply a disinfectant according to the directions on the label. Be sure to use a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered disinfectant that is effective against avian influenza virus or other diseases of concern.

* Leave the enclosure empty until it is completely dry. Using fans and/or opening doors and windows will help speed the drying process.

* Clean and disinfect your boots, and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water when you are done. Wash the clothes you were wearing.

Remember, you are the best protection your birds have.

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Steve Troxler, Commissioner of Agriculture

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