State’s first case of avian influenza in poultry found at Johnston County farm; 32,000 turkeys killed

A photo of farmed turkeys

(Photo: USDA)

A commercial turkey operation in Johnston County has tested positive for High Path Avian Influenza, the state Agriculture Department announced today, forcing the farm to kill 32,100 birds to prevent the spread of the disease.

This is the first case detected in a domestic poultry farm in North Carolina.. The agriculture department did not name the farm.

The positive sample was first identified by the department’s veterinary diagnostic Lab in Raleigh and confirmed by the USDA APHIS National Veterinary Services Lab in Ames, Iowa.

The HPAI virus has been found in 48 commercial farms in 12 states and 32 backyard flocks in 13 states. More than 100 hunter-harvested wild birds have tested positive for HPAI in North Carolina. The N.C. Wildlife Resource Commission has reported four wild birds have died from the virus, according to the agriculture department.

State Veterinarian Mike Martin said in a press release that the affected birds are being composted at the farm to guard against additional spread. “Under HPAI protocols, we will be actively testing other flocks within the 10-kilometer zone or about 6.2 miles in collaboration with our federal and industry partners,” Martin said.

The zone includes Johnston County and portions of Sampson and Wayne counties in Eastern North Carolina.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers the HPAI virus a low risk to people. However, it is highly contagious to other birds, including commercial and backyard flocks of poultry. The virus is also not considered a food safety threat.

“The threat of high path avian influenza is statewide,” Martin said.

Commercial operations and backyard flock owners should continue to follow strict biosecurity measures, he said. This includes keeping birds enclosed without access to wild birds or other domestic flocks.

The warning signs of HPAI include:

  • Reduced energy, decreased appetite, and/or decreased activity
  • Lower egg production and/or soft-shelled or misshapen eggs
  • Swelling of the head, eyelids, comb and wattles
  • Purple discoloration of the wattles, comb and legs
  • Difficulty breathing, runny nares (nose), and/or sneezing
  • Twisting of the head and neck, stumbling, falling down, tremors and/or circling
  • Greenish diarrhea

Farmers who see their birds are sick or dying should immediately report the incidents to their local veterinarian, the state’s Veterinary Division at 919-707-3250, or its Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory System at 919-733-3986.

For those who spot dead migratory birds, hunting, or wild waterfowl, contact the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission: 866-318-2401 or [email protected].

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