October 19, 2017

Foster Farms Turkey Farm Has Bird Flu Outbreak

A Foster Farms turkey farm in California has been quarantined after the highly pathogenic H5N8 avian flu (bird flu) was discovered. The flu has been found in flocks in the Pacific Northwest. There was a spike in bird deaths at the Foster Farms facility.

Turkey on CountertopFoster Farms made news last year when their product was linked to a multistate outbreak of multidrug-resistant Salmonella infections. In that outbreak, 634 people in 29 states were sickened. Almost 40% of patients were hospitalized, a rate much higher than usual in Salmonella outbreaks, because the seven outbreak strains of Salmonella were so resistant to antibiotics.

The birds did not enter into commerce and the USDA says there is no risk to the general public. No human cases of these avian influenza viruses have been detected in the United States, Canada, or internationally. But the press release still warned consumers that they must cook poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165°F to kill bacteria and viruses.

Samples from the flock were tested at the California Animal Health & Food Safety Laboratory System (CAHFS) and the APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa. APHIS will assist California in depopulating the remaining birds.

Public health officials from the federal government and the state are working on joint surveillance and testing in the nearby area. Preventing the movement of risky animals and products is key.

USDA is also notifying the World Organization for Animal Health of this detection. Trade guidelines require countries to base trade restrictions on sound science.

This H5N8 strain can appear in wild birds which will not show any symptoms or signs of being ill. Avoid contact with sick and/or dead poultry and wildlife. If you do touch a sick or dead bird, wash your hands well with soap and water. Then change your clothing before you have contact with healthy birds.

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