LINCOLN, Neb. -- The Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) in conjunction with the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has confirmed preliminary testing shows the presence of a fourth case of highly pathogenic H5N2 avian influenza (HPAI) in Nebraska. This case has been found at a farm in Knox County.
The Knox County case is a flock of 3 million hens. The farm is owned by the same operator as the three previously-announced Nebraska cases in Dixon County. Those three cases involve 3.5 million laying hens and a flock of 500,000 pullets (young hens), bringing the total impacted birds to date in Nebraska to 7 million. The location in Knox County is approximately 50 miles from the three Dixon County locations.
The Department quarantined the Knox County facility this morning following a preliminary positive test for the disease; the test is expected to be confirmed tomorrow at a federal laboratory. As with the three previous cases, a perimeter has been established around the Knox County facility, and the birds will be depopulated. Under the USDA protocol, NDA will visit all locations that have poultry within a 6.2 mile radius of the Knox County site to conduct testing.
Ibach said a response team has already been pulled together and is in Knox County to address the HPAI finding, including federal, state and local officials.
“I cannot stress enough the importance for all Nebraska poultry facility operators to ensure they maintain the strictest of biosecurity measures,” Nebraska Agriculture Director Greg Ibach said. “That means strictly limiting the traffic, both humans and vehicles, into and out of facilities in an effort to avoid any cross-contamination.”
Gov. Pete Ricketts issued a state emergency declaration on May 12 to provide NDA and other state agencies with appropriate resources to address the HPAI situation.
The Centers for Disease Control considers the risk to people from HPAI H5 infections to be low. There have not been any human cases associated with the HPAI H5 virus. Proper handling and cooking of poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165 degrees kills the virus. Dixon 1, Dixon 2 and the Knox County facility are egg laying facilities and therefore the chickens are not consumed, and the eggs from these facilities are processed and go through pasteurization, eliminating product consumption risk.
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services is working with local health departments and the producer involved to interview workers about their possible exposure and monitor them if appropriate. For more information on public health and avian influenza, go to dhhs.ne.gov/avianflu.
Ibach is asking Nebraska poultry producers, large and small, to monitor their flocks for symptoms of the virus and notify NDA immediately if they suspect any problems. All bird owners, whether commercial producers or backyard enthusiasts, should prevent contact between their birds and wild birds, and report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to state/federal officials, either through NDA by calling 1-877-800-4080 or through USDA’s toll-free number at 1-866-536-7593.
As part of the existing USDA avian influenza response plans, federal and state partners as well as industry are following these five basic steps: 1) Quarantine – restricting movement of poultry and poultry-moving equipment into and out of the control area; 2) Eradicate – humanely euthanizing the affected flock(s); 3) Monitor region – testing wild and domestic birds in a broad area around the quarantine area; 4) Disinfect – kills the virus in the affected flock locations; and 5) Test – confirming that the poultry farm is AI virus-free.