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Turkeys Provide Fujian H5 Early Warning Signals
Recombinomics Commentary
March 29, 2015 11:30

Diamond V poultry veterinarian, Dr Eric Gingerich, explained: “Turkeys can provide early warning of the spread of HPAI. It takes about 100 times more virus to infect chickens than turkeys.”

The above comments increase concerns that the H5N2 outbreaks at turkey farms in Minnesota (see H5N2 map) will continue.  The two recent outbreaks (in Lac Qui Parle and Stearns counties) increases the number of confirmed farms to 7 for March, with 6 being in turkey farms, including three in Minnesota.  The one farm that did not involve turkeys was a small backyard farm in Kansas that raised chickens and ducks.

Although all six of the commercial farms raised turkeys, the farms were not epidemiological linked and involved multiple companies.  Butterball had contact farms in Missouri and Arkansas, but had nearby in state processing farms.  The other farm in Missouri was linked to Cargill and may have had links to the first farm in Minnesota (in Pope County), but the two farms raised turkeys of different ages.  Similarly, the second farm in Minnesota (in Lac Qui Parle County) was linked to Jennie-O, which is largely concentrated in Minnesota.

The absence of enhanced surveillance outside of the Pacific administrative flyway has allowed H5N2 to migrate undetected in wild birds.  The enhanced surveillance confirmed Fujian H5 (clade H5N8, H5N2, H5N1) in 49 wild birds in the Pacific Flyway, but most positives were hunter killed birds, and positives ended when hunting season ended in January.  Recent reports of bird flu confirmations from the Pacific Flyway involved collections made in December or January.  Routine surveillance has confirmed one wild bird, a Canada goose near Cheyenne, Wyoming with neurological symptoms.

In the US the only earlier confirmations of Fujian H5 in commercial farms were in California, where the first confirmation was also a turkey farm (in Stanislaus County).  Similarly, the first confirmed farm in Fraser Valley in early December was a turkey farm.

Recent migration of wild birds to the north in the US Midwest as temperatures warm, coupled with the high concentration of turkey farms in Minnesota, the “land of 10,000 lakes”, suggests the outbreaks in Minnesota commercial turkey farms will continue.

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