Organic farmers will not compromise their certification under the National Organic Program if they temporarily keep flocks indoors as a precaution against avian influenza, says the USDA agency that oversees the program. In a notice, the Agricultural Marketing Service said it "supports bringing the birds inside on a temporary basis in areas in proximity to the recent [bird flu] detections in Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, and Georgia."
The USDA confirmed the second case of highly pathogenic avian influenza in southern Tennessee since March 4, in a 55,000-bird broiler-breeder flock less than two miles from the first outbreak in Lincoln County. "Depopulation has begun," a standard step to prevent spread of the bird flu virus that can wipe out an infected flock in two days, said USDA.
After tests suggested bird flu in a poultry flock in northern Alabama, the poultry breeding company Aviagen culled the flock and removed from its production line eggs that originated from the farm, says Reuters. The flock was one of three potential outbreaks of bird flu and followed discoveries across the state line in Tennessee a week earlier.
Nearly 74,000 chickens were killed and buried on a farm in southern Tennessee in an effort to stem an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza, said state officials. The first round of samples from flocks on neighboring farms were free of the disease, said state veterinarian Charlie Hatcher, who cautioned, "We'll be in this thing for a long haul."
Agriculture officials ordered the culling of 73,500 chickens on a Tennessee farm near the border with Alabama, and put 30 nearby poultry farms under quarantine following discovery of highly pathogenic avian influenza in the breeding flock. It was the first case of "high path" bird flu in commercial poultry in the nation this year.
Strains of the influenza virus that decimated Midwestern turkey and egg production in 2014 and 2015 are now wreaking havoc in poultry production in several parts of the world, including China where the virus has jumped species and infected and killed humans.
Farmers in Asia and Europe have destroyed millions of birds as they combat epidemics of avian influenza, says the Wall Street Journal. The United States lost 10 percent of its egg-laying hens in its worst-ever outbreak of bird flu in 2014-15 but this time, U.S. egg producers are enjoying higher prices as they ship eggs to South Korea.
Federal and state officials are watching for further signs of New World screwworm, a maggot that kills animals by feeding on their flesh, after the pest was found in wounds on a stray dog near Homestead, in Miami-Dade County in southern Florida. "This is the first confirmed case on Florida's mainland," said USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
University of California researchers are using the U.S. network of weather radar stations to track wild fowl that could carry the bird flu virus, says UC Food Observer. Veterinarian Tod Kelman, a co-leader of the project, said that by tracking flocks as they travel, "we hope to gain novel strategic insights with respect to surveillance and prevention of avian influenza transmission to domestic poultry."