Evidence of a highly pathogenic strain of avian flu in a backyard flock of ducks and chickens in Leavenworth County, Kansas, is widening concern by U.S. Department of Agriculture officials that the virus may have entered the central flyway.
USDA's Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) confirmed last week that the strain appears to be the same as the H5N2 strain that was detected in commercial turkey flocks in Minnesota, Arkansas and Missouri in the last few months. APHIS officials have quarantined the property where the ducks and chickens are located and are working to determine how the birds might have been exposed to the virus.
Although the USDA has reassured consumers that the risk to humans is low, the increased findings raises the possibility of increased import restrictions by other countries. Mexico and China, which both have a robust poultry trade agreement with the U.S., have imposed temporary import restrictions, as have more than a dozen other countries concerned about the chance of outbreaks spreading to their industries.
Butterball has acknowledged that "a limited number" of its birds had been determined to be carrying H5N2. A spokeswoman for the company acknowledged that two of the birds came from two different farms located in different states.
Stock prices for turkey producers Tyson and Pilgrim Pride dropped after the news of the outbreak was announced, but have since rebounded.
Kansas is the fourth state in the central region to have detected H5N2 in commercial or backyard flocks. Earlier this year, Oregon and Washington also reported findings in local wildlife and privately maintained flocks of chickens, shortly after British Columbia, Canada, reported findings in its commercial turkey stocks. Officials suspect the virus may have been carried from Asia via the Pacific Flyway. South Korea and Taiwan have been forced to cull an estimated 2 million birds recently due to the virus.
Image #1: USFWS Mountain-Prairie
Image of flyway: USDA
Jan Lee is a former news editor and award-winning editorial writer whose non-fiction and fiction have been published in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and Australia. Her articles and posts can be found on TriplePundit, JustMeans, and her blog, The Multicultural Jew, as well as other publications. She currently splits her residence between the city of Vancouver, British Columbia and the rural farmlands of Idaho.