A commercial chicken flock in Kentucky tested positive for a particularly fatal strain of avian flu on Monday, officials said, extending an outbreak that is threatening the US poultry sector.
Infections in hens grown for meat are expected to result in additional limitations on US poultry exports, following a week in which customers such as China and Korea restricted purchases from Indiana due to an outbreak at a major turkey farm there.
Kentucky officials reported broiler hens in Fulton County, Ky., near the Tennessee border, were infected with the same H5N1 strain of highly dangerous avian flu as turkeys in Indiana.
They are awaiting final laboratory confirmation of another potential epidemic in Webster County, Kentucky, among turkeys.
State officials said affected flocks’ birds will be culled and removed from the food supply.
“We are actively preventing the virus from spreading to other chicken establishments,” said Katie Flynn, Kentucky’s state veterinarian.
In Kentucky and Tennessee, federal and state authorities are evaluating commercial and backyard poultry flocks.
The United States is the world’s top producer and exporter of chicken.
The disease was also identified in an already-culled backyard flock of birds in Fauquier County, Virginia, the US Department of Agriculture stated. The incidents do not pose an urgent threat to public health, the FDA stated.
After dozens of wild birds tested positive for the flu around the US East Coast, it is believed that wild birds are spreading the infection.
According to the US government, the US is the world’s greatest producer and second-largest exporter of poultry meat. Kentucky is the seventh-largest producer of chicken meat, according to the USDA.
The disease is making its way onto the market when poultry supplies are depleted as a result of high demand and labor difficulties at meat processors during the COVID-19 outbreak. According to government data, frozen chicken supplies in the United States were down 14% year over year in December, while turkey stockpiles were down 23%.