A low-pathogenic bird flu strain has been detected in a Jennie-O Turkey Store operation in Barron, Wis., marking the second bird flu case in a U.S. commercial operation this week.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture posted notice of the Barron County case to the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health's website Tuesday. Hormel Foods, which owns Wilmar-based Jennie-O, confirmed the H5N2 strain was detected March 4 at its Barron operation.
Barron is about 90 miles northeast of the Twin Cities. The USDA report said 84,000 birds are at the farm.
It is the second case reported in the United States this week, reports that led several Asian countries to ban imports of U.S. poultry. The first case, reported at a Tennessee chicken farm, is the highly pathogenic bird flu (HPAI) H7. Hormel said, "This HPAI situation does not involve Jennie-O Turkey Store and we have no turkey flocks in that area of the country."
Highly pathogenic avian flu spreads quickly and is more likely to produce disease, leading to a greater mortality rate among chickens and turkeys. Low-pathogenic strains do not spread as quickly but they can mutate into highly pathogenic strains, which is why they are closely watched.
Avian flu only affects animals and is not considered a food safety issue for humans.
Jennie-O was devastated by the 2015 outbreak of the highly pathogenic version of H5N2 avian flu, which decimated 10 percent of Minnesota's annual turkey production. About 58 percent of Minnesota turkey farms that were hit in the 2015 outbreak were Jennie-O suppliers. The multistate outbreak sent U.S. egg prices soaring and caused significant financial strain for the turkey industry.
The USDA made it clear in its report that this new strain is distinct from the viruses in the 2015 outbreak. Hormel told investors last month that it has made significant biosecurity investments in its Jennie-O business to prevent such outbreaks.
The USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection are responding to the situation in Barron. Unlike the Tennessee case, the Jennie-O birds showed no clinical signs of duress. Operators tested the birds after they showed signs of depression. The strain is common in wild birds, Hormel said. The origin is unknown, according to the USDA.
Responders have quarantined the operation and the birds will be euthanized, said the USDA report.
The USDA monitors migratory bird flyways for signs of disease spread. Minnesota, Wisconsin and Tennessee are all in the Mississippi flyway.