I-Team 8

Bird flu puts Indiana farmers on high alert

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — In the past year, Indiana famers have lost more than 400,000 birds to the flu and, as we come into the fall flu season, farmers are on high alert.  

“We are concerned about the fall migration of wild migratory birds has started, so we are on high alert,” said Denise Derrer Spears of the Indiana Board of Animal Health.

Some of the birds flying over Indiana on their way south are carrying a potentially deadly avian influenza. Avian flu is spread by the droppings of migratory waterfowl, which makes it difficult to control the spread.

On the front line of this flu war is the Indiana State Board of Animal Health. It has not seen any infected birds yet, but the virus survived the warmer summer months.   

“The most recent cases, there have been about 20 new cases nationally in 10 different states, and, right now, a lot of those have been north like the Dakotas, the northern sector states, and that is what we are concerned about with the migration. As birds start flying south for the winter, we are highly likely going to start seeing it again,” Spears said.

Indiana turkey farmers rank No. 4 nationally in overall production by state. The National Turkey Federation told I-Team 8 that Indiana turkeys typically don’t end up on the Thanksgiving Day table, but on the lunchroom table. 

Earlier this year, I-Team 8 showed the farm in southern Indiana that reported the first avian flu case in the country. The only way to control the bird flu is to kill the entire flock, which is what happened at the southern Indiana farm.

Across the country, millions of birds were put down, which caused a shortage in grocery stores.

Beth Breeding of the National Turkey Federation said, “That does have an impact on what is in the grocery store. We have seen some temporary short-term product disruptions for some items like restaurants or in the grocery store.”

She says not to expect a national turkey shortage for Thanksgiving; however, the price of turkey is expected to increase over the next couple of weeks.

Gaining control over this flu will be a challenge because it is not economically feasible to vaccinate flocks. This flu is being detected in all types of poultry flocks, and it has farmers on edge.  

Spears said, “Those folks that are producing table eggs (and) producing turkey for table meat, those folks are very keyed up and on high alert. They are doing everything they can to keep disease from getting into their barns. They are basically on lockdown on a lot of these facilities.”

Just to be clear, there is almost zero chance of this flu crossing over to the human population. The last reported case of avian flu in Indiana was in early September.