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Officials find bird flu at 3rd southern Indiana turkey farm

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The hot spot for the highly contagious Indiana avian flu infection appears to be in southern Indiana, particularity in DuBois County, south of Jasper.

Two DuBois County farms have been ordered to destroy more than 50,000 turkeys, and another 18 farms are under quarantine.

Late Thursday afternoon, the Indiana Board of Animal Health confirmed a third farm, this one in adjacent Greene County, has tested positive for the virus, and is in the process of destroying 48,000 turkeys.

At one of the farms near Jasper, at least 26,000 birds have been destroyed. Yellow caution tape and workers in white protective suits limit access.

Jayson Lusk, the head of the agricultural economics department at Purdue University, said, “It is actually quite difficult, for example, for you and I to walk up to a turkey operation and go on their farm because they are very aware of that these kinds of a events can happen, so I think there are a lot of precautions, but, as we are seeing now, it doesn’t always prevent these sorts of outbreaks from happening.”

All of the poultry farms inside a 10-kilometer control zone around the infected farms are quarantined. The quarantined flocks are tested on a regular basis. The farms will remain under quarantine until the virus threat has passed.

The question is how were the flocks infected in the first place.

Rebecca Joniskan, president of the Indiana State Poultry Association, “The veterinarians involved will do an epidemiological study and try to connect as many dots as they can. Frequently, we never know absolutely know how it got there.”

One theory is that migrating birds carry the bird flu virus. The turkeys are confined to barns and not exposed to wild birds, but the virus can be carried onto farms by truck tires and workers’ boots.

This strain of avian flu has not jumped from birds to humans in the United States, but it has happened in other parts of the world.  

Joniskan said, “We emphasize and practice really good biosecurity in other parts of the world. There have been some incidences of it making that jump to humans, but it is always in situations where the humans were living in very close confines with the birds.”

Public health agencies are monitoring workers and others in contact with the Indiana turkeys for flu-like symptoms.

Indiana is the third-largest producer of turkeys in the country, and Dubois County plays a big role for the state’s overall turkey production. Twenty farms in the county have hundreds of thousands of birds under the watchful eye of the state and federal government, with the goal of stopping the spread and keeping infected birds out of the food supply.

“Turkey continues to be safe to eat. The turkeys, the food products, as long as they are properly handled, do not pose a food safety concern, and the turkeys that have been infected have obviously been depopulated and will not be within the food supply.”

This is the first time avian flu has been found in commercial poultry in Indiana since 2016.  

Associated Press report for Feb. 17, 2022

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — State officials say a strain of avian flu has been found at a third commercial turkey farm in southern Indiana.

The Indiana State Board of Animal Health says laboratory testing of a commercial flock of turkeys in Greene County has come back as presumptively positive for the virus.

The samples are being verified at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Iowa.

The previous two cases were in adjacent Dubois County.

Pending test results should indicate if the virus is the same as that in the previous cases and if the virus is highly pathogenic.

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