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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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USDA foresees extended bird flu outbreak

Official says effect on poultry industry would be ‘devastating’

Steve Karnowski Associated Press

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The nation’s poultry industry may have to live with a deadly bird flu strain for several years, which would be “devastating,” the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief veterinary officer said Thursday.

Dr. John Clifford also said that while new cases should drop close to zero once the weather warms and kills off the virus, there’s “very likely” to be a resurgence this fall when the waterfowl that are natural carriers of avian influenza fly south for the winter.

Clifford spoke on a visit to Minnesota, the state hit hardest by outbreaks that have cost Midwest producers over 2 million turkeys and chickens since early March. He said the fact that the highly pathogenic H5N2 virus has already appeared as far east as southern Ontario means there’s an uncomfortable risk of it spreading to the East Coast where much of the U.S. broiler chicken industry is based.

“If it sticks around and continues it’s going to be very devastating to our poultry industry and our international markets, trade markets, as well as the loss domestically,” Clifford said in an interview with the Associated Press. “That’s why we have to really use this time appropriately to do all that we can to determine how best we can address and prevent introductions in the future.”

Authorities have confirmed H5N2 outbreaks at more than 30 commercial poultry farms in the Midwest, including 22 in Minnesota. All were turkey operations except for one chicken farm in Wisconsin. On Thursday, Wisconsin’s agriculture department officials said two more farms had tested positive for infections in the H5 family, and they expected further tests would show it is H5N2.

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