(Adds confirmation of low-pathogenic case in Alabama, closing
price for Tyson shares)
By Tom Polansek
CHICAGO, March 16 Bird flu that is highly lethal
to poultry has infected a second commercial chicken farm in
Tennessee that supplies Tyson Foods Inc, company and
state officials said on Thursday.
The finding expands an outbreak near the major
chicken-producing states of Alabama and Georgia, and is the
second in the type of breeder flock crucial for keeping the
chicken-meat industry supplied with birds. A case of less
dangerous bird flu was confirmed in Alabama on Thursday.
In Tennessee, authorities have started to cull the infected
flock of 55,000 chickens in Lincoln County, to contain the
highly pathogenic H7N9 flu, according to the U.S. Department of
The farm was in a quarantine zone established after
authorities this month found the same strain of the disease in a
flock of about 73,500 chickens less than 2 miles (3.2 km) away,
the Tennessee Department of Agriculture said. That farm also
supplied Tyson, the world's biggest chicken company.
"I'm sure on the part of the company they're quite concerned
and going back and reviewing all of their information and data
to determine how in the world this got into the buildings," said
Bret Marsh, state veterinarian in Indiana, which had the
nation's only highly pathogenic bird flu case in poultry in
The initial case in Tennessee was the nation's first
infection of highly pathogenic bird flu at a commercial
operation in more than a year. Tennessee also recently detected
a less-dangerous case of low-pathogenic flu in another chicken
On Thursday, Alabama said the USDA confirmed a suspected
case of low-pathogenic flu in a guinea fowl at a flea market as
H7N9. Aviagen, the world's largest poultry breeding company, has
culled chickens in the state over concerns about the disease.
Highly pathogenic bird flu led to the deaths of about 50
million birds, mostly egg-laying hens, in the United States in
2014 and 2015.
Another widespread outbreak could represent a financial blow
for poultry operators because it could kill more birds or
require flocks to be culled. It also would likely trigger more
import bans from trading partners, after South Korea, Japan and
other countries limited imports after the first highly
pathogenic case in Tennessee.
China has also been grappling with an outbreak of H7N9,
which has killed 161 people since October. U.S. authorities have
said that strain is genetically distinct from the H7N9 in
Tennessee and that the risk of the disease spreading to people
from poultry or making food unsafe is low.
Tyson said it worked with Tennessee and federal officials to
quickly euthanize birds in the infected flock and did not expect
disruptions to its chicken supply.
"Our business is diversified and scaled across multiple
states, so we plan to meet our customers’ needs," spokesman
Worth Sparkman said.
Tyson shares fell 1.7 percent to close at $62.00 on
The company has said it tests all the birds it owns for the
virus and flocks diagnosed with highly pathogenic flu are not
Wild birds can carry the disease without showing signs of
sickness and transmit it to poultry through feces, feathers or
other forms of contract.
(Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Matthew Lewis)