Bird Flu Found in Missouri Turkey Farm

May 5, 2016

An outbreak of a bird flu has hit southwestern Missouri. While less contagious than the strain of avian flu that devastated the Midwest chicken and turkey industry last spring, the infection is still potent enough to call for the destruction of birds.

On Wednesday, when the outbreak was confirmed by the Missouri Department of Agriculture, the commercial turkey farm in Jaspar County, near Joplin, was still quarantined. Some 39,000 birds were destroyed last week as a precaution.

The Missouri outbreak is low pathogenic H5N1 avian flu, which has a very low (or no) mortality rate, said Kyoung-Jin Yoon, a professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Iowa State University. It was discovered by a U.S. Department of Agriculture surveillance program, he said.

"This H5N1 strain recently identified in the Missouri turkey farm won't affect humans, even though it carries the same subtype of H5N1 HPAI (highly pathogenic avian influenza) virus which has been circulated in Southeast Asia and caused human casualty," Yoon said. "It is because this new H5N1 is a low pathogenic strain."

Last spring, nearly 50 million birds were destroyed after a high pathogenic strain, H5N2, hit the chicken and turkey industry in the Midwest. Turkey and egg prices spiked and the USDA spent $1 billion in cleanup and other costs.

Just this week, a quarantine on the last of ten Indiana poultry farms was lifted. That's where a bird flu outbreak was discovered in January, it too a low pathogenic strain.