Statewide poultry sales prohibited due to deadly bird flu reported in West Tennessee

In Tennessee, more than 600 family farms contribute to the commercial poultry industry. The...
In Tennessee, more than 600 family farms contribute to the commercial poultry industry. The state is a global leader for primary breeders, and an estimated 45 percent of the chicken consumed worldwide traces back to Tennessee operations. Broiler (meat) chickens are among the state's top agricultural commodities, generating $376.2 million in cash receipts in 2021.(WHSV)
Published: Sep. 15, 2022 at 8:31 PM CDT

OBION CO., Tenn. (WMC) - A state veterinarian has issued a statewide emergency response and an immediate halt to poultry shows, exhibitions, and sales due to a highly pathogenic strain of bird flu reported in a West Tennessee flock.

This announcement comes from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDOA), which reported that a backyard flock in Obion County was experiencing unexpected deaths due to avian influenza (HPAI), commonly known as bird flu.

HPAI is known to be deadly for domesticated fowl. The affected West Tennessee flock consists of chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, pheasants and pigeons.

On Sept. 13, the flock owner notified the State Veterinarian’s Office after a sudden unexplained increase in deaths.

Testing at the C.E. Kord Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory in Nashville and the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa confirmed the presence of H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza in samples from that flock.

“With HPAI, it’s critical we move quickly to stop the virus from spreading,” Tennessee State Veterinarian Dr. Samantha Beaty said. “We appreciate the flock owner for contacting us immediately when unexpected deaths occurred. We have protocols in place for instances like this and we are working closely with our state and federal partners to get this situation under control.”

For now, any events where poultry can comingle are prohibited.

This includes poultry shows, exhibitions, livestock sales, flea markets, and swap meets.

“Issuing an order like this is never an easy decision, especially during fair season,” said Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Hatcher, D.V.M. “From backyard flock owners to the large commercial companies — the poultry industry touches a lot of lives in Tennessee. This is an effort to protect all domesticated poultry in our state.”

The affected farm is under quarantine and the flock is being depopulated to stop the potential spread of the illness, TDOA reported.

Animal health officials have also established a 20-kilometer (12.4 mile) surveillance zone surrounding the site. Within the zone, other flocks will be tested and monitored for illness, and poultry movement is restricted.

That zone includes a portion of Kentucky, so TDOA is partnering wth the Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDOA) to coordinate a response.

“We are working diligently alongside our Tennessee counterparts to prevent this virus from spreading to other poultry premises,” Kentucky State Veterinarian Dr. Katie Flynn said. “Because the control area comes into Kentucky, we have initiated our avian influenza response and are in active communication with state, federal, and industry partners. We will begin surveillance of commercial and backyard flocks within that identified area immediately.”

TDOA's order prohibiting poultry shows, exhibitions, livestock sales, flea markets, and swap...
TDOA's order prohibiting poultry shows, exhibitions, livestock sales, flea markets, and swap meets comes in the middle of fair season.(Getty Images)

Although HPAI does not pose a food safety risk, no infected poultry will be allowed to enter the food supply. Poultry and eggs are safe to eat when handled and cooked properly.

The risk of human infection with avian influenza during poultry outbreaks is very low. According to TDOA, no transmission to humans was reported during the outbreak that affected commercial poultry farms in Tennessee in 2017.

Owners of backyard and commercial poultry flocks are encouraged to:

  • Closely observe domesticated birds and report a sudden increase in the number of sick birds or bird deaths to the Tennessee State Veterinarian’s office at 615-837-5120; or, in Tennessee or Kentucky, you can report to USDA at 1-866-536-7593.
  • Prevent contact with wild birds.
  • Practice good biosecurity with your poultry. More information can be found online.
  • Enroll in the National Poultry Improvement Plan, the Secure Broiler Supply Plan, and the Secure Egg Supply Plan as appropriate for your operation.

Information about Tennessee’s response to avian influenza and resources can be found online here.

Information about Kentucky’s response can be found online here.

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