UPDATE: More Wisconsin farms released from avian flu quarantine

UPDATED Wednesday, July 29, 2015---4:25 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. -- The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) will release quarantines on the first three of nine commercial poultry producers affected by the avian flu virus earlier this year.

The producers are located in Chippewa, Barron, and Jefferson counties. Those producers can begin restocking their barns and resuming business. A backyard flock in Juneau county was released from quarantine in May. The remaining six premises are in the final stages of testing required for release.

DATCP says even with the good news, there is still a possibility that the virus could return in the fall when temperatures fall and wild birds begin to migrate. To minimize the impact on bird owners, the state veterinarian suggests they continue preventative measures and report any sick birds or unusual deaths to their veterinarian or DATCP.

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UPDATED Wednesday, July 8, 2015---9:36 a.m.

(WASHINGTON, D.C.):--The avian flu has killed off over 48-million chickens and turkeys in the U.S. since December of last year. Some agriculture experts fear—the virus could get worse.

The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry held a hearing Tuesday to discuss ways to combat the deadly bird virus.

“We’ve got to be vigilant about this,” said Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown.

With the outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza, or HPAI, the current bird flu strand is killing millions of birds that could put a dent in your wallet—with less supply of meat and eggs.

“It means higher prices, it means a slaughter of these animals which is unfortunate,” said Brown.

“The ripple effect that hpai has had on these rural communities is dramatic and widespread,” said Kansas Senator Pat Roberts.

The United States Department of Agriculture has confirmed HPAI in 21 states since December of 2014 and they believe wild birds are to blame for this flu.

In response to this growing problem the USDA is detecting the HPAI in birds as quickly as possible and killing them off before the virus spreads.

“These farms are a lot bigger. It used to be a farmer would have a few hundred chickens now there’s these really big poultry farms--increasing the risk and making it harder to manage,” said Brown.

The good news here is that so far this bird flu is not a risk to humans health or the food you eat as long as it’s cooked properly.

The USDA says the avian flu spreads through the air, soil, feces or farm equipment. The department also says that it’s very likely wild birds may carry the virus with them to the south in the fall.

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UPDATED Monday, June 15, 2015 --- 5:15 p.m.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- Bird flu that's devastated Midwestern farms likely spread by several means, including on machinery and workers, by rodents and possibly even by the wind.

That's according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report released Monday. The agency studied genetic properties of virus samples on more than 80 turkey and chicken farms.

USDA scientists say wild birds introduced the virus onto farms, but it appears the virus spread in other ways once there. The scientists found lapses in bio-security on farms and environmental factors likely contributed to the spread of the disease.

More than 49 million birds died or were euthanized in 15 states this spring as the virus spread from the Pacific Northwest into Midwest farms. It's the nation's worst outbreak of bird flu.

Copyright 2015: Associated Press

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UPDATED Thursday, May 21, 2015---4:23 p.m.

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Minnesota has notched six straight days without a new bird flu case. And though state officials aren't ready to say the outbreak is over, they're beginning to stand down.

The first case in the Midwest was confirmed in March at a Minnesota turkey farm, and the virus then spread to 88 farms in the top turkey producing state. But new cases have fallen off sharply and the focus is turning toward getting farms back into production.

To be sure, the disease remains a threat. Iowa, the chief egg producer in the U.S., has reported several new probable cases this week.

But things have settled down enough that Minnesota's Board of Animal Health stopped issuing daily updates unless it has new cases. And federal personnel assigned to the state have fallen.

Copyright 2015: Associated Press

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UPDATED Tuesday, May 19, 2015---1:02 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- State agriculture officials have lifted a quarantine zone around a Juneau County farm that had poultry infected with bird flu.

The approximate 6-mile quarantine zone around the farm was lifted after no new cases of bird flu were found in the county since the original detection in April affecting a flock of backyard birds. That flock was destroyed.

The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection says the movement of poultry is still banned in Juneau, Barron, Chippewa and Jefferson counties until the end of the month.

State veterinarian Dr. Paul McGraw says there are no current plans to cancel bird exhibitions at any local, county or state fairs.

Copyright 2015: Associated Press

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UPDATED: May 18, 2015 --- 5:14 p.m.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- Agriculture economists say bird flu could cost the two states hardest hit, Iowa and Minnesota, nearly $1 billion and the virus is still spreading.

The estimates include sales losses to feed suppliers, trucking companies, and processing plants. Economists say exact figures are difficult to know because it's unclear how long barns must remain empty before they're declared virus-free.

Iowa, the nation's leading egg producer, has lost about 20 million chickens laying eggs, more than a third of the total. Minnesota, the top turkey producing state, has lost more than 8 million birds.

The U.S. Agriculture Department says bird flu has claimed 34 million birds in 15 states but not all farms with positive tests have been confirmed and placed on the list yet.

Copyright: Associated Press 2015
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UPDATED: May 8, 2015 --- 4:52 p.m.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- Iowa agriculture officials say bird flu will claim an additional 4 million Iowa egg-laying chickens on two more farms in a county already hit by the disease.

Officials are waiting for preliminary tests on two farms in Wright County to be confirmed. The county earlier reported a farm with 2.8 million chickens affected.

Iowa's chicken loss is approaching 25 million, more than 40 percent of the state's egg-laying flock.

Officials on Friday also announced detection of the virus on five more turkey farms, including one with 42,000 birds.

That brings the state to 44 cases in 12 counties.

Minnesota and Wisconsin, two other states hit hard with the disease, reported no new bird flu cases Friday.

The virus has spread to well over 30 million birds in 13 states.

Copyright: Associated Press 2015
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UPDATED Friday, April 24, 2015---4:03 p.m.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) -- Game bird producers in the Midwest are ramping up disease prevention measures in an effort to shield their multi-billion-dollar industry from the highly contagious avian influenza outbreak sweeping the region's poultry producers.

The deadly H5N2 strain of avian influenza has cost turkey and chicken producers millions of birds but the virus hasn't affected game bird producers who supply the nation's hunting preserves.

Bill MacFarlane runs the largest pheasant operation in North America. The 60-year-old farmer has implemented strict measures to protect the $1.8 million birds he supplies annually to game bird industry.

MacFarlane says as the number of cases grows, producers are getting more stressed.

It's still not known how susceptible game birds are. The only case of the virus in pheasants so far was found in Washington state.

Copyright 2015: Associated Press

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UPDATED Thursday, April 23, 2015---3:58 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The deadly bird flu virus has been detected in a 90,000 turkey flock in Barron County.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection says that is the sixth report of bird flu in the state in 10 days. Nearly 1.3 million birds are affected.

Spokeswoman Raechelle Cline says initial tests show it's an H5 virus, but results are still pending to confirm whether it's the same H5N2 virus that has struck commercial poultry farms across the Midwest.

There are four confirmed, and two unconfirmed, cases of the H5N2 virus in Wisconsin.

There are two outbreaks in Barron and Jefferson counties, and one each in Chippewa and Juneau counties.

The virus is lethal to birds, but is not expected to be a risk to people or the food supply.

Copyright 2015: Associated Press

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UPDATED Wednesday, April 22, 2015---3:39 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin has reported another case of bird flu, this time at a large farm in Jefferson County.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection says the latest outbreak hit an egg facility with 800,000 hens. Spokeswoman Raechelle Cline says initial tests show it's an H5 virus, but results are still pending to confirm whether it's the same H5N2 virus that has struck commercial poultry farms across the Midwest.

Earlier Wednesday, the agency reported an H5 infection in a flock of 87,000 turkeys in Chippewa County. Hormel Foods Corp. confirms that facility is owned by its Jennie-O Turkey Store division.

All birds in the two flocks that haven't died from the flu will be killed.

The latest discovery raises the number of Wisconsin cases to five.

Please monitor your flock closely and report sick or dead birds to DATCP at (800) 572-8981.

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UPDATED Wednesday, April 22, 2015---12:12 p.m.

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Federal officials say they're taking steps to create a human vaccine for the bird flu virus that's affected the Midwest poultry industry, though they still consider the danger to be low.

Dr. Alicia Fry, an influenza expert with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says they're optimistic there won't be any human cases of the H5N2 strain that has cost chicken and turkey producers nearly 6.8 million birds so far.

She said Wednesday that most human infections with other bird flu viruses have required close, prolonged contact with infected birds. So, officials are monitoring farm workers who've been exposed to affected flocks.

Fry said the CDC has taken early steps toward developing a human vaccine in case it's needed, but that's a standard procedure with all emerging diseases.

Copyright 2015: Associated Press

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UPDATED Wednesday, April 22, 2015---9:20 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- There's another case of bird flu in Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection said Wednesday that H5 avian influenza has been detected in an unidentified turkey flock in Chippewa County.

State agriculture officials say the property where the flu was detected in the flock of 87,000 birds has been quarantined. All the birds that haven't died from the flu will be killed.

The latest discovery brings to four the number of cases in Wisconsin. It was first detected in a commercial chicken flock in Jefferson County on April 12. It was later found in in flocks in Barron and Juneau counties.

Agriculture officials say more than 310,000 birds have been destroyed in Wisconsin as a result of the avian flu.

Copyright 2015: Associated Press

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UPDATED Wednesday, April 22, 2015---8:33 a.m.

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture is working on a potential vaccine in response to the current outbreak of a deadly strain of bird flu that has cost turkey and chicken producers more than 6.7 million birds since early March.

A pure "seed strain" would target the H5N2 virus and some other highly pathogenic viruses in the H5 family that have been detected in other parts of North America. If the USDA decides the vaccine is necessary, it will provide the seed strain to private drug manufacturers.

Officials and poultry producers would also have to decide which birds will get the vaccine, look at how it might affect exports and gauge whether it'd be effective.

Experts say it isn't clear how much a vaccine would add to the cost of producing birds.

Copyright 2015: Associated Press

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UPDATED: Monday, April 20, 2015 --- 5:05 p.m.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the bird flu virus has been found at a farm holding nearly 10 percent of Iowa's egg-laying chickens.

The confirmation of the highly infectious and deadly H5N2 virus means up to 5.3 million hens must be killed at the farm in northwest Iowa's Osceola County.

Iowa is home to roughly 59 million hens that lay nearly one in every five eggs consumed in the country.

It's the first chicken farm in Iowa to be affected by the virus, which was confirmed at a turkey farm in the state last week.

Several Midwestern states have been affected by the outbreaks, costing poultry producers nearly 7.8 million birds since March.

The latest farm experienced a high number of chicken deaths and sent samples to labs.

Copyright: Associated Press 2015
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UPDATED Monday, April 20, 2015---2:01 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Gov. Scott Walker has declared a state of emergency following an outbreak of the deadly bird flu in Wisconsin.

Walker on Monday authorized the Wisconsin National Guard to assist authorities responding to the bird flu in Jefferson, Juneau and Barron counties. That includes helping with the response and clean up once the infected birds are killed.

Walker says the state must act "quickly and efficiently to contain the outbreak and protect domestic poultry."

State agriculture officials this month detected the virus for the first time in Wisconsin. It has been found in three flocks affecting tens of thousands of chickens and turkeys.

Authorities stress there was no risk to public health and no danger to the food supply from the highly pathogenic H5N2 strain.

Copyright 2015: Associated Press

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UPDATED Thursday, April 16, 2015 -- 6:03 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin has confirmed its second and third outbreaks of a form of bird flu that's deadly to poultry.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection says they're a farm with 126,000 turkeys in Barron County and a backyard flock of 40 birds of different kinds in Juneau County. The Barron County farm belongs to Jennie-O Turkey Store.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture confirms the Barron County case is the same H5N2 strain that's cost Midwest and Ontario producers more than 2 million birds since early March.

The farms have been quarantined and the remaining birds will be killed to prevent any spread.

The H5N2 virus was first confirmed in Wisconsin at a chicken farm Monday.

Officials say it's not a risk to public health or the food supply.

Copyright: The Associated Press 2015

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UPDATED Thursday, April 16, 2015---10:47 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin has confirmed its second and third outbreaks of a form of bird flu that's deadly to poultry.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection says the affected operations are a farm with 126,000 turkeys in Barron County and a backyard flock of 40 birds of different kinds in Juneau County.

The farms will be quarantined and the remaining birds will be killed to prevent any spread.

Department spokesman Jim Dick says it's an H5 virus, but they're waiting for more tests on whether it's the same H5N2 strain that's cost Midwest and Ontario poultry producers around 2 million birds since early March. The H5N2 virus was confirmed Monday at a Wisconsin chicken farm.

Officials say it's not a risk to public health or the food supply.

Copyright 2015: Associated Press

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UPDATED: Wednesday, April 15, 2015 --- 5:28 p.m.

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Some scientists say that eastern U.S. poultry producers should brace for the potential arrival of a deadly bird flu virus outbreak that farmers in the Midwest have struggled to stop.

The fear is that if the virus isn't already lurking in the Atlantic Flyway, it could spread there this fall when wild ducks fly south for the winter. Donna Carver, extension veterinarian at North Carolina State University, says producers there are preparing for the worst.

H5N2 avian influenza has turned up since December in poultry farms and wild birds in the Pacific and Central flyways. But it's done the most damage in the Mississippi Flyway, especially in Minnesota, the country's top turkey producing state. Midwest and Ontario producers have lost over 2 million turkeys and chickens since early March.

Copyright: Associated Press 2015
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UPDATED Monday, April 13, 2015---2:54 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A dangerous bird-flu strain that has hit numerous turkey farms in the Midwest has now been identified in a Wisconsin chicken flock.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Monday that the case marks the first case of the highly pathogenic H5N2 strain in a U.S. commercial chicken farm and the disease's first appearance in Wisconsin.

Authorities stressed there's no risk to public health or the food supply.

The disease made its first appearance in the region in Minnesota last month, and scientists suspect it's being spread by migratory waterfowl.

The USDA says tests confirmed that a flock of about 200,000 chickens in Jefferson County, in southeastern Wisconsin, has been infected. State agriculture officials say all will be killed to prevent the spread of the disease.

Copyright 2015: Associated Press

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Posted Monday, April 13, 2015---10:30 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin has confirmed its first case of a dangerous bird flu strain that has struck several other Midwest states.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Monday that it has confirmed the highly pathogenic H5N2 strain in a commercial flock of 200,000 chickens in Jefferson County of southeastern Wisconsin.

The USDA says state officials have quarantined the premises and birds there will be killed to prevent the spread of the disease.

Turkey producers have lost over 1.2 million birds to the disease across the Midwest. This is the first time it has struck a commercial chicken farm in the region.

Authorities say there is no risk to public health and no danger to the food supply. No human cases of the virus have been found in the U.S.

Copyright 2015: Associated Press