U.S. Reports Highly Infectious Strain of Bird Flu in These States

Health officials announced Monday that they detected a highly contagious strain of bird flu in two additional U.S. states, furthering a threat to the country's poultry industry.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) said the cases were found in a flock of commercial broiler chickens in Fulton County, Kentucky, and in a backyard flock of mixed-species birds in Fauquier County, Virginia.

The latest outbreaks were reported just days after the U.S. ordered nearly 30,000 turkeys to be euthanized in Indiana after testing positive for the same H5N1 strain of the highly pathogenic disease. That outbreak was the first case of bird flu found among a commercial poultry flock since 2020.

APHIS said Monday that the birds in the most recently infected flocks will also be quarantined and killed off, and that so far no human cases of the virus have been detected in the U.S.

"Birds from the flocks will not enter the food system," APHIS said in a statement on Monday. "The United States has the strongest AI surveillance program in the world, and USDA is working with its partners to actively look for the disease in commercial poultry operations, live bird markets and in migratory wild bird populations," it added.

Bird Flu chickens
The USDA announced two new outbreaks of a highly contagious strain of bird flu after 30,000 turkeys were euthanized in Indiana last week. In this photo, chickens are captured on a farm on February 6, 2007. Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added Monday that these virus detections do not present an immediate public health concern. Authorities believe wild birds have been spreading the virus, after dozens recently tested positive for the flu along the East Coast, Reuters reported.

APHIS urged Americans involved with poultry production from small-scale backyard operations to large commercial environments to review their biosecurity activities and prevent contact between their birds and wild bird populations.

"As part of existing avian influenza response plans, Federal and State partners are working jointly on additional surveillance and testing in areas around the affected flocks," the agency added.

Last week, Mexico joined several other countries in banning or limiting poultry imports from Indiana following the disease outbreak.

The U.S. is currently the world's largest producer and second-largest exporter of poultry meat, according to Reuters. Kentucky said it is the seventh biggest chicken-meat producing state and that it is working "diligently" to prevent the disease from spreading to other poultry flocks.

The flu outbreaks are hitting the country at a time when poultry market supplies have dropped due to the COVID-19 pandemic and labor shortages. According to Reuters, data has found that frozen chicken supplies were down 14 percent from a year ago at the end of December, while turkey inventories were down 23 percent.