Outbreak of H5N2 Influenza in Midwest

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Since December, H5N2—a highly pathogenic influenza strain—has spread to 21 states, affecting over 48 million chickens and turkeys. The virus has not affected the public or food safety in New Jersey or elsewhere on the East Coast. H5N2 does not pose a threat to humans and no cases of the illness have been reported among individuals exposed to diseased birds.

  • Four of the 14 states that have experienced outbreaks—Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Nebraska—have declared states of emergency. More than 48 million chickens and turkeys have died or been killed to prevent the disease from spreading, making this the worst outbreak in the US.
  • As a result of this particular strain’s genetic makeup, public health officials agree it is unlikely the virus could be passed between humans. As a precaution, however, preventive measures and vaccinations have been offered to farm workers exposed to infected birds.
  • We do not know how the virus is entering poultry barns. Public health officials are examining a number of factors: unintentional human farm-to-farm transmission through car tires, clothing, or delivery equipment; intentional human transmission; and migratory waterfowl.

Uncorroborated information provided to the FBI in April indicates unidentified individuals may be interested in attempting to access disposal sites to collect infected chicken carcasses with the intent of introducing the virus to unaffected commercial poultry facilities. We have no credible reporting on this activity in New Jersey. 

Any suspicious activity around commercial poultry facilities in New Jersey should be reported by calling (866) 4SAFENJ (866-472-3365) or 2-1-1, or by emailing tips@njohsp.gov.

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This intelligence note has been coordinated with the FBI and the New Jersey Department of Agriculture. For more information, please contact NJOHSP's Analysis Bureau at analysis@njohsp.gov or at 609-584-4000.