PhotoState agriculture officials and executives at a major poultry operation have announced thousands of chickens at three farms have been euthanized over the suspected presence of bird flu.

The company, Aviagen, said it found the presence of virus antibodies in a flock, even though none of the chickens displayed symptoms of the disease. Officials were on high alert because the operation in Northern Alabama is just across the state line from a Tennessee farm where bird flu was detected last month.

According to Reuters, the company euthanized the flock and destroyed the eggs that had been collected from the chickens. Reuters quotes Alabama State Veterinarian Tony Frazier as saying about 15,000 chickens, out of a flock of around 153,000, were killed., a local news website, reports Frazier has issued a "stop movement" order for some poultry in the affected area. Officials so far believe the suspected outbreak is confined to a limited area.

Preliminary test results

Preliminary test results have confirmed bird flu at three sites, but further testing by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will determine the strain of flu and its severity.

Last week the USDA completed testing on bird flu samples from Lincoln County, Tenn., confirming the strain as H7N9 HPAI. All eight gene segments of the virus show that the virus originated among North American wild birds.

USDA took pains to point out the strain is different from the severe H7N9 virus that impacted poultry and caused illness among humans in Asia.

"USDA continues to work with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture on the joint incident response," the agency said in a release. "Birds on the affected premises have been depopulated, and burial is in progress. An epidemiological investigation is underway to determine the source of the infection.

Bird flu spreads quickly among animals but so far can only be transmitted to humans who come in contact with an infected bird. There have been no confirmed cases of human to human transmission of the virus.

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