'Probable' Bird Flu Infection at Iowa Chicken Farm

An egg-producing chicken farm run by Sunrise Farm is seen in this aerial photo in Harris, Iowa, April 23, 2015. Joe Ahlquist/Reuters

CHICAGO (Reuters) - An Iowa-based chicken broiler breeding farm has initially tested positive for the highly pathogenic H5 bird flu, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship confirmed on Thursday.

The facility in Kossuth County, Iowa, houses an estimated 19,000 birds, state officials said. Birds were dying in greater than normal numbers at the breeding farm, which is a typical sign of influenza infection in a flock.

This is thought to be first time the avian influenza virus has affected a broiler breeding farm in this outbreak. Such breeding farms are traditionally known for having extremely tight biosecurity systems.

Though the operation is small compared to some of the other poultry farm sites in the Midwest that have been affected by the current outbreak, the probable breach of a chicken broiler breeder's biosecurity underscores the potential for the country's poultry meat industry supply chain to be affected.

Typically, such facilities' chickens lay fertile eggs, which are sent to a hatchery to produce chicks that are later raised and slaughtered for meat.

Additional testing to confirm the finding is underway at the federal Agriculture Department of Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services' (APHIS) National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa.

Two bird flu strains have been found in the United States this year. The H5N2 strain has been reported in Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington and Wisconsin. It has also been identified on farms in Ontario, Canada.

The H5N8 strain has been identified in California and also in Idaho, according to the Agriculture Department.