US detects highly deadly bird flu in Tyson Foods chickens

CHICAGO, Feb 14 (Reuters) – A flock of about 240,000 chickens owned by Tyson Foods Inc (TSN.N) in Kentucky has tested positive for a highly deadly form of bird flu, government officials and the state said on Monday. society, expanding an epidemic that threatens the American poultry industry.

Infections in chickens raised for meat have triggered more restrictions on US exports, with China blocking poultry products from Kentucky. Buyers like China and Korea limited their purchases of poultry in Indiana last week due to an outbreak at a commercial turkey farm. Read more

Broiler chickens in Fulton County, Kentucky, located near the border with Tennessee, were infected with the same H5N1 strain of highly pathogenic bird flu as turkeys in Indiana, Kentucky officials said. Read more

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They said it was the first outbreak of highly deadly bird flu in Kentucky, which killed more than 50 million American chickens and turkeys in 2015.

Birds in the infected flock will be culled and will not enter the food system, state officials said.

Tyson Foods is working with government authorities to prevent the spread of the disease and is strengthening safety measures at other local farms, spokesman Gary Mickelson said.

The outbreak is not expected to lower overall chicken production levels as thousands of farms raise chickens for Tyson, he said. Mickelson added that Tyson Foods chicken products are safe to eat.

On Tuesday, Kentucky officials await final test results for a separate suspected outbreak in turkeys in Webster County, Kentucky.

The disease has also been detected in a flock of backyard birds in Fauquier County, Virginia that were previously culled, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said. The cases do not present an immediate public health concern, the agency said.

Wild birds are believed to be spreading the virus, after dozens tested positive along the US east coast. Read more

The United States is the world’s largest producer and second largest exporter of poultry meat, according to the US government. Kentucky said it was the seventh-largest chicken meat-producing state. About 18% of US poultry production is exported and the industry is a major user of feed grains.

The disease is hitting the market as poultry supplies are down due to high demand and labor shortages at meat plants during the COVID-19 pandemic. Government data showed US frozen chicken supplies were down 14% from a year ago at the end of December, while turkey stocks were down 23%.

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Reporting by Tom Polansek; Editing by David Gregorio and Stephen Coates

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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