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38,000 birds killed to stop Avian flu spread; Indiana says virus is not going away

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The avian flu has claimed almost 40,000 birds this week. Daviess County and Martin County flocks are believed to be the ones infected.

“There is something different this year happening with this virus and it is not going away,” Denise Derrer Spear of the Indiana State Board of Animal Health said.

Highly pathogenic H5N1, also known as avian flu, is lingering much longer than expected.

The first reported case was in February. Fourteen Indiana farms have lost nearly 200,000 turkeys between February and August.

The virus had not been detected since late August.

This week, though, 11,394 turkeys in Daviess County tested positive, and the virus is believed to have spread to another farm in Martin County. The flock of 27,083 turkeys has been put down as a precaution.

“We have the same farm family, or farm crews, going between barns from the flock that had tested positive to the other flocks so we are expecting it to break at any time,” Derrer Spear said.

Avian flu is spread by migratory birds.

In late November, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources detected the virus in a flock of Canadian geese.

The virus is believed to be spreading by the waste of migratory birds; however, evidence is growing that the virus may be airborne.   

“These barns are very well ventilated to keep the birds. Fresh air keeps them cool and at proper temperature. We have seen cases where the first birds in the barn that get sick are the ones located closest to the ventilation fans,” Derrer Spear said.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk of infection to people is low. So far, there are no reports of the virus infecting any people in Indiana.

Poultry and eggs are tested for the virus before shipment. The virus has contributed to a 10% increase in the price of turkey.

Jayson Lusk from the agricultural economics department of Purdue University said, “By my calculations, about 5% of total national production has been taken offline because of avian influenza.”   

To keep on eye on the virus, the state has put four southern Indiana counties under surveillance.