Flu season is literally for the birds this year. A California turkey farm operated by poultry corporation Foster Farms (also the sponsor of our recent bowl game) has confirmed its first case of H5N8 avian influenza in one of its sick birds. According to the USDA, the company had recently experienced a rise in turkey mortality rates. Currently, the facility is in quarantine, although the USDA may decide that the best route is to depopulate the farm entirely. The virus hadn’t been found before in US commercial poultry. It is possible that this strain originated in wild birds, as it has been found in wild turkeys before. Poultry farms in Taiwan, South Korea, and several European countries have experience outbreaks of H5N8 before.
Of course, not all avian influenza viruses pose a significant threat to public health, but it’s generally better to be safe than sorry. The virus does seem highly pathogenic for turkeys, so the farm has been quick to put down sick birds and destroy dead ones to reduce the chance that any other domestic or wild birds, or humans, become infected.
This outbreak happened as China cracked down on poultry imports from the US.
It seems for the time being that it’s safe to gobble up turkey.