ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — An astounding 25,000 turkeys previously destined for dinner plates were killed in Virginia after samples from the flock tested positive for Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI).
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) confirmed Thursday the disease was found in a flock of birds located on a commercial turkey operation in Rockingham County. Officials say the affected premises are now under quarantine, and additional surveillance and testing are being done within a 6.2-mile radius around the diseased flock.
Mike Wallace, a spokesperson for the VDACS, said all 25,000 birds were quickly and humanely killed once the positive test results were seen.
“A major lesson that was learned through previous HPAI outbreaks is that the key to defeating this disease is speed,” Wallace said. “Quickly and humanely depopulating infected birds reduces the amount of virus in the environment and minimizes the risk of the disease spreading to and killing other birds.”
Wallace said none of the birds from the flock will enter the food system.
Anyone involved with poultry production in Virginia, from small backyard non-commercial flocks to large commercial production, is advised to review their biosecurity activities — keep visitors at a minimum, wash hands often when coming into contact with live poultry, change clothes and provide disposable boot covers to anyone in contact with the flock, keep clean tools and report sick birds — to make sure their birds are healthy and prevent possible contact with wild bird species.
“Poultry is the Commonwealth’s top agricultural commodity and protecting this industry remains our top priority,” VDACS Commissioner Joseph Guthrie said in a statement. “We will continue to work with the Virginia Poultry Federation, and other industry partners, to ensure strict biosecurity protocols are in place for Virginia poultry producers and poultry products that are shipped in and out of the state.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the risk to the general public from these infections is low, as proper handling and cooking of poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165˚F kills bacteria and viruses.
Virginia bird owners are told to report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to the State Veterinarian’s Office at (804) 692-0601 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.