(The Center Square) – A more serious strain of bird flu was found last week in a turkey flock in South Carolina's Chesterfield County.
"In South Carolina, the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) was only found in one barn of five on a single turkey farm," State Veterinarian Boyd Parr said in an interview with The Center Square.
Parr said that barn had a mix of the HPAI H7N3 and Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza (LPAI) H7N3. The other four barns on the farm had only LPAI H7N3.
"That is a strong indication that we found this HPAI in the barn where it made the jump through mutation to the highly pathogenic form and makes us hopeful that we have been able to eliminate this particular HPAI before it spread from this barn," Parr said. "The fast action by this grower and the integrator in reporting the sick birds to us deserves a lot of the credit for making it possible for us to stop it where it began."
Parr said all of the turkeys on this farm were depopulated in under 24 hours after initial detection using methods approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association for this purpose and disposed of on-site in a manner approved by state regulators.
In coordination with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Parr said Clemson Livestock and Poultry Health has conducted testing twice on all commercial poultry in the control area in Chesterfield County surrounding the farm, along with enhanced surveillance outside of the control area, without finding any additional cases.
"Testing in the control area will continue for at least one more round as the infected farm is cleaned and disinfected," Parr said.
While LPAI H7 and H5 – because of their propensity to mutate into HPAI – and HPAI always are a top concern to poultry farms and animal health officials, Parr said there is no need for worry by consumers and the general public.
"Birds from the flock do not enter the food system, and the U.S. has the strongest AI surveillance program in the world," Parr said.
The USDA will compensate owners for any animals depopulated as part of control efforts, as well as helping with the cost of cleaning and disinfection.
"Still, it is always difficult for farmers when their animals have to be put down, both economically and emotionally," Parr said.
The Clemson University Veterinary Diagnostic Center tested samples from the flock, and the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service confirmed the diagnosis April 8.
"Also it is important for people to know that Avian influenza is not in any way related to SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19," Parr said. "At this time, though, COVID-19 may help people understand how important it is to find and eliminate diseases like this quickly in animals."