Bird flu forces slaughter of 39,000 turkeys at Missouri farm

Farm Forum

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A southwestern Missouri turkey farm where bird flu was found remains quarantined after 39,000 of its birds were destroyed recently as a precaution, agricultural officials said on May 4.

The H5N1 strain of the virus, detected during a routine inspection, is weaker than the H5N2 strain that cost turkey and egg producers in Missouri and 14 other states about 48 million birds last year. It’s also a different than the H7N8 strain found in January in Indiana, where more than 400,000 birds at about 10 poultry farms were exterminated.

The bird flu found on the farm in Jasper County is a low-pathogenic variety, meaning the birds often show no or only minor symptoms and have a lesser mortality rate, Missouri Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Sarah Alsager said. The state would not identify the farm where employees and U.S. Department of Agriculture contractors euthanized the birds.

Commercial flocks within a six-mile radius of the Missouri farm have tested negative for the virus, Alsager said, and testing and surveillance is continuing in nearby counties.

U.S. taxpayers spent hundreds of millions of dollars last year cleaning up dead birds and disinfecting after the bird flu swept through the Midwest; Iowa, Minnesota and Missouri lost the most birds. Money also was spent to fund research and stockpile a bird flu vaccine in case the virus returns.

Avian flu viruses typically do not infect humans, though it has happened sporadically, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. It advises that people observe wild birds only from a distance, avoid contact with poultry that appear ill or have died and stay away from surfaces apparently tainted with feces from wild or domestic birds.