The World Organization for Animal Health announced March 9, that avian influenza was detected on a chicken farm in Hopkins County, Texas. This marks the first outbreak on a chicken farm in the U.S. in 2018, and the second overall outbreak in the country since the first week of March when a turkey farm was reported to be infected.
The first case of the virus was in Missouri, approximately 350 miles away from the chicken farm in Texas. Chances are slim that the outbreaks are related, but it is possible since wild birds can carry the disease across the country.
Both outbreaks were low pathogenic meaning that the virus was mild and most likely nonfatal to the infected birds. Unfortunately, the virus has been known to quickly mutate into the more dangerous and infectious high pathogenic strain which can quickly kill birds and cause much more suffering. To avoid these potential consequences of the disease, the farm has decided to cull the infected chickens.
The strain of the virus has been reported to be H7N1, and, as of now, has little to no threat of infecting humans, unlike the H5N6 subtype which has infected people in China and South Korea. The U.S.’s food supply has not been contaminated by the disease. However, people who interact with chickens and turkeys on a daily basis should always use biosecurity tactics to avoid spreading the disease to other poultry farms.