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Bird Flu Found in Midwest

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo
Investigators have discovered avian flu in commercial poultry flocks in Minnesota, Missouri and Arkansas.

A highly contagious strain of bird flu has officially made its way to the Midwest.

The disease was confirmed Tuesday in two separate commercial turkey flocks in Missouri, according to the Missouri Department of Agriculture and the USDA.

Investigators also found an infected flock in Arkansas, the USDA said Wednesday (PDF). Arkansas is the nation’s third-largest turkey producer and the home of the world’s largest chicken company, Tyson Foods.

The virus, called H5N2 Avian Influenza, is not a threat to human health, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But the strain of flu found in Missouri is the same that had been previously found in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Minnesota.

In Missouri, State agriculture officials said they quarantined infected flocks and say the birds “will not enter the food system.”

After the disease was found in flocks in the Northwest, China and South Korea banned the import of all U.S. poultry products. Other countries have instituted bans on products from specific U.S. states or regions in response to avian flu concerns.

The strain of avian flu is thought to spread mostly through contact with infected wild birds. The virus’ discovery in Missouri is significant, according to Politico, “as Missouri lies in the middle of the Mississippi Flyway, a bird migratory pattern that follows the Mississippi River in the United States and the Mackenzie River in Canada.”

Biosecurity can keep poultry flocks healthy, which is vital to the $44 billion dollar U.S. poultry and egg industry. Day-to-day precautions like limiting contact between poultry farms and disinfecting the boots of workers as they go in and out of barns can help.