APHIS to continue monitoring Wisconsin turkey farm

The strain of H5N2 avian influenza detected in a Wisconsin turkey flock may have been a low pathogenic variant, but veterinary officials have concerns that it could mutate into a highly pathogenic variant.

Roy Graber Headshot
Photo courtesy of Iowa Turkey Federation
Photo courtesy of Iowa Turkey Federation

The strain of H5N2 avian influenza detected in a Wisconsin turkey flock may have been a low pathogenic variant, but veterinary officials have concerns that it could mutate into a highly pathogenic variant.

Speaking during a conference call organized by the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) on March 6, Dr. Mia Torchetti, USDA APHIS, Veterinary Services, said a close eye is being kept on the virus, which is of North American wild bird origin, because there is evidence that it could mutate.

“One of the samples suggested that there are some changes happening with the virus, so we just really want to keep an eye on it,” Torchetti said. “We’ll be monitoring the virus for any potential changes as we move forward.”

APHIS confirmed the presence of H5N2 in a flock of turkeys being raised for Jennie-O Turkey Store in Barron County, Wisconsin, on March 4. The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) was notified of the outbreak on March 6.

Dr. Jack Shere, USDA chief veterinary officer and deputy administrator for Veterinary Services, said during the call that the farm had about 84,000 toms in six barns. Half of the barns housed 16-week-old toms, while the other three barns housed toms that were 6-weeks old.  Shere said the farm did not experience any increased mortality, and a report from the OIE stated that testing was done because the birds exhibited signs of depression.

The State of Wisconsin established a quarantine of the facility, and while the birds were not depopulated, controlled marketing efforts are in place. Shere said surveillance will be increased and the younger birds will continue to be tested.

“Wisconsin and Minnesota have dealt with low path AI for many, many years, and this is pretty routine for them. However, we want to watch this particular H5N2 because it has some interesting characteristics,” said Shere.

Learn more: 6 useful articles for addressing biosecurity

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