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article imageKansas now the fourth state with confirmed avian flu in poultry

By Karen Graham     Mar 15, 2015 in Science
The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday confirmed the presence of a virulent strain of the avian flu virus in poultry in Kansas. This discovery confirms the deadly virus has spread into the migratory bird route.
The H5N2 flu strain was discovered in a backyard chicken and duck flock in Leavenworth County just outside Kansas City, Kan. Kansas health officials moved quickly to quarantine the infected property. The infected birds will be culled to prevent the spread of the disease to other poultry.
Additionally, a quarantine zone has been established to restrict the movement of poultry in the area. "We are dedicated to providing the necessary assistance and precautions to avoid any possible spreading of the disease," said Bill Brown, Kansas' animal health commissioner. There is concern the outbreak will lead to expanded restrictions of U.S. exports from some of our top trading partners, like Mexico and Canada.
Kansas is not alone in the fight to contain the avian flu virus. Veterinary health experts are trying to figure out how the deadly bird flu has infected poultry in four states. and how to stop its spread. Although the H5N2 virus is not harmful to wild migratory waterfowl, it is deadly to commercial poultry businesses. It can wipe out a flock of tens of thousands of birds in a matter of days.
This very thing happened in Minnesota, the nation's top turkey producing state, last month. The H5N2 strain was confirmed on March 4. This past week, the same strain was confirmed on two farms in Missouri and one in Arkansas. The USDA will notify our international trading partners as well as the international animal health organization.
The one thing Minnesota, Missouri, and Arkansas have in common is that the states are in the migratory bird flyway. What is interesting about Kansas is that the county where the infected flock is located is west of the Mississippi flyway. The bad thing about the virus is how easily it can be spread. The virus can be tracked by humans, rodents, or carried on trucks, equipment, crates and egg flats. It can also be passed from waterfowl to shore birds that find their way into a barn.
In discussing the H5N2 strain of avian flu we are seeing in U.S. poultry, Dr. Carol Cardona, an avian influenza specialist at the University of Minnesota, said, "This new guy is a bad actor." There is speculation as to why the strain has shown up simultaneously in these locations. Cardona and other experts suspects it is from waterfowl and other wild birds.
As a precaution, poultry farms are closely monitoring employees who had contact with the infected flocks, and producers are increasing their biosecurity standards and practices. This includes putting on sanitary clothing and showering when entering and leaving the barns. According to a USDA statement, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the risk to people from highly pathogenic flu infections in wild birds and poultry to be low.
More about Avian flu, H5N2 strain, migratory bird route, deadly to commercial poultry, Kansas
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