Devastating bird flu strain found in U.S. wild duck - USDA

August 26, 2016 2:00 PM EDT

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By Tom Polansek

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The type of avian flu that led to the deaths of about 50 million U.S. chickens and turkeys last year has been found in the country for the first time in 14 months, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said on Friday.

The USDA said it detected the H5N2 strain of the disease in a wild duck in Alaska as part of surveillance testing it has been conducting on birds since last year's devastating outbreak. That strain has not been found in any wild birds or poultry since June 2015, according to the agency.

Following the discovery, the agency recommended that all farmers and companies involved in poultry production review their protocols for cleaning and security to assure the health of their birds.

Wild birds can carry the virus without showing symptoms of it and transmit it to poultry through their feathers or feces.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consider the risk of infection to the general public to be low, the USDA said.

Last year's outbreak cost poultry exporters millions of dollars in lost business as trading partners limited deals from states and counties with infected flocks. Some countries, such as China, halted all imports of U.S. poultry.

The 2015 outbreak also sent U.S. egg prices to record highs and tightened supplies of turkey meat.

(Reporting by Tom Polansek; Editing by G Crosse and Frances Kerry)

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