- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 6, 2015

ST. LOUIS (AP) - A strain of bird flu responsible for the deaths of millions of chickens and turkeys in several states has surfaced in northeastern Missouri, weeks after it was detected elsewhere in the state, the Missouri Department of Agriculture said Wednesday.

The department confirmed in an email to The Associated Press that 10 to 12 birds in a backyard flock of mixed poultry in Lewis County were found last week to be infected with a strain of the highly pathogenic H5N2 influenza virus, forcing an additional 130 of the property’s birds to be quarantined and destroyed.

The department did not identify the property owner but said the farm was not a commercial poultry producer.

The bird flu virus is carried by wild waterfowl that aren’t sickened by it but can spread it via their droppings. The virus then finds its way into poultry barns despite tight biosecurity, perhaps carried in on workers’ footwear or clothing, or maybe hitchhiking on contaminated dust whipped up by the wind.

Health and agriculture officials have said human infections are highly unlikely.

Missouri agriculture officials last month lifted quarantines involving a turkey farm in central Missouri’s Moniteau County and another in southwestern Missouri’s Jasper County. Roughly 51,000 birds were forced to be destroyed as part of those outbreaks.

Bird flu has badly shaken the Midwest poultry industry, which already has lost nearly 28 million chickens and turkeys. Farmers are facing huge losses, and the nation’s second-biggest turkey processor, Jennie-O Turkey Store, said Tuesday it will lay off 233 workers at a southern Minnesota plant because the bird flu outbreaks have winnowed supplies.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has confirmed outbreaks of the H5N2 virus on more than 100 Midwest farms since early March. Hardest hit have been Minnesota, the country’s top turkey producing state, and Iowa, the nation’s top egg producer.

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Associated Press reporter Steve Karnowski in Minneapolis contributed to this report.


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