Deadly poultry virus found in Fayette Co. flock, officials say

State, federal officials working to contain the virus.
Deadly poultry virus found in Fayette Co. flock, officials say
Published: Oct. 7, 2022 at 2:21 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - A case of avian influenza has been detected in a backyard flock of birds in Fayette County, according to federal and state authorities.

Kentucky State Veterinarian Dr. Katie Flynn said the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Veterinary Services Laboratory confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza in samples taken from a bird submitted from the premise.

“The Kentucky Department of Agriculture and the Office of the State Veterinarian is working alongside animal health officials at both the federal and state government to contain this incident of avian influenza,” Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said. “Bird producers across the state would be wise to take the necessary precautions to protect their flocks as the cases of Avian Influenza have begun to pop up again across the country. We encourage everyone to visit kyagr.com/HPAI for additional information and updates as they come. Protecting the health of livestock and poultry in the commonwealth is a top priority of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.”

The state had two earlier cases of the deadly virus in February when birds from commercial poultry operations in Fulton and Webster counties tested positive for the virus. The sites were quarantined and cleaned while surveillance around the premises was conducted.

Officials say no additional detections of the virus were identified beyond the initial infected premises in those counties. The sites were released from quarantine and declared clear of the virus by May. The most recent case is not linked to the February incidents.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is known to be deadly for domesticated chickens and turkeys.

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) began an investigation upon notification from the University of Kentucky Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory of a submitted bird testing positive for Avian Influenza.

“Similar to the actions taken in February, we are working diligently to prevent this virus from spreading to other poultry premises,” Dr. Flynn said. “We have activated our Avian Influenza response plan and are in active communication with state, federal, and industry partners. We encourage interested parties to sign up for significant updates at kyagr.com/HPAI.”

Avian influenza does not present a food safety risk; poultry and eggs are safe to eat when handled and cooked properly. There is no risk to the food supply, but birds and eggs from the infected flocks will not enter the food system.

State officials quarantined the affected premise and established a 10-kilometer surveillance zone around the property to determine if there are any further detections.

The virus is carried by free-flying waterfowl such as ducks, geese, and shorebirds. Domestic birds can be infected when a wild bird enters their premise or droppings land in an area near domestic flocks.

Anyone involved with poultry production from a small backyard to a large commercial producer should review their biosecurity activities to ensure the health of their birds. APHIS has materials about biosecurity, including videos, checklists, and a toolkit available as part of its Defend The Flock program.

In addition to practicing good biosecurity, all bird owners should prevent contact between their birds and wild birds. Kentucky bird owners should report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to state and federal officials, through USDA’s toll-free number at 1-866-536-7593.

Additional information on biosecurity for backyard flocks can be found at http://healthybirds.aphis.usda.gov.

Kentucky’s poultry industry ranks seventh in the nation for broiler production. In 2020, Kentucky’s production from boilers and eggs brought in an economic impact of $856 million.