Highly pathogenic H7 avian influenza has been confirmed in a commercial chicken breeder flock in Lincoln County, Tennessee, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. It is the first confirmed case of avian influenza in commercial poultry in the United States this year. The flock of 73,500 birds is located within the Mississippi flyway.

Samples from the affected flock, which experienced increased mortality, were tested at Tennessee’s Kord Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory and confirmed at the National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa.

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is working with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture on a joint incident response. Tennessee officials quarantined the affected premises. Officials say chickens on the property will be depopulated to prevent the spread of disease. Birds from the flock will not enter the food system. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture is working with poultry workers at the affected facility to ensure they are taking precautions to prevent illness and contain disease spread.

The USDA will inform the World Organisation for Animal Health and international trading partners of the finding. USDA also continues to communicate with trading partners to encourage adherence to World Organisation for Animal Health standards and minimize trade impacts.

The incident comes on the heels of poultry farmers across Europe being told to be extra vigilant as more cases of bird flu are reported in several countries. According to the World Health Organisation, several countries have reported outbreaks of a severe strain of bird flu. Germany, Austria, Croatia and Switzerland have all officially reported outbreaks, which concerned a particularly virulent strain affecting wild birds. France has raised its safety checks to try and keep the virus at bay. According to France’s Agriculture Ministry, the highly pathogenic H5N8 virus has been found in wild birds in Hungary, Poland, Germany, Croatia, the Netherlands and Denmark.

Wild birds are currently embarking on various flight paths moving to different parts of the world, which is increasing the spread of the virus.

In Hungary, 10,500 birds have been culled on a commercial turkey finishing unit, with a 3-kilometer protection zone created around the infected farm. Two other countries, Austria and Switzerland, have taken precautionary steps to prevent the spread of bird flu to domestic poultry after discovering cases of the disease in wild ducks around Lake Constance. In the Netherlands, the government ordered poultry farmers to house their flocks following the outbreaks.

All bird owners should continue to practice biosecurity, prevent contact between their birds and wild birds, and report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to their state veterinarian or the USDA. Visit www.aphis.usda.gov/animalhealth/defendtheflock for more information.

Chris McCullough contributed to this story.

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