(Jasper, IN) - A wall, of sorts, was built to try and contain the highly contagious Avian Flu detected at an Indiana commercial turkey farm.
A quarantine was imposed on 18 commercial poultry farms within a six-mile radius of the roughly 100 turkeys infected by the virus found dead in Dubois County.
According to USDA, it’s the first confirmed return of the Avian Flu in Indiana since 2016, when over 400,000 birds on 11 poultry farms in Dubois County were lost to the virus. In addition, it is the first confirmed Avian Flu case in the nation since 2020.
Dubois County in the southwest part of the state is Indiana’s largest poultry-producing county, said Denise Derrer Spears, Communications Director for the Indiana Board of Animal Health. Nationally, Indiana is the third leading producer of turkeys and first in duck production.
Indiana also ranks second in the production of egg-laying chickens and table eggs.
The bird flu was confirmed in a laboratory after a farm contacted a veterinarian about the dead turkeys and other turkeys showing classic symptoms like drinking less water. All 29,000 turkeys on the farm were being euthanized to help keep the virus from spreading.
“There is no cure for this disease, and the only way to deal with it is all of the birds on the property need to be depopulated,” Spears said.
According to USDA, none of the turkeys will enter the food supply, and no human cases of Avian Flu have ever been confirmed in the country. Farms within the quarantined area must have their birds tested weekly. So far, no birds on any of the other quarantined farms have tested positive.
Weekly tests must occur until the quarantine is lifted. When that happens is not known.
“This is going to take several weeks. We don’t have an exact timeline on it,” Spears said.
Before lifting the quarantine, Spears said all euthanized turkeys must be disposed of, and the affected farm has to undergo an extensive cleaning. Cleaning involves the removal of all organic matter such as turkey waste, feed, and bedding.
The barns will also undergo disinfecting and testing to ensure the virus is not present before restocking.
She said cleaning is necessary because wild ducks and geese can become infected at a farm and spread the virus in their droppings. One way humans can spread the virus is in the organic matter on the bottom of their shoes and on their clothing.
Spears said an attempt would be made later to determine how the virus made its way onto the farm.
“We’ll be looking at the epidemiology as we go forward. Our main priority is just to contain it at this moment so that we don’t have another spread,” Spears said.
Consuming an infected bird is not considered a health risk to humans because Avian Flu is not found in the meat. However, Spears said swift and thorough action is taken to prevent spread because of how quickly the virus can decimate poultry populations on farms.
Countries importing poultry from the U.S. could also decide to stop their purchases to avoid a negative public perception of sick birds in their homelands. Spears said many of the turkeys in Dubois County are exported outside the U.S.
“It has potential for major impact on the Indiana agricultural economy,” Spears said.
Spears said the affected farm qualifies for payment from USDA to help cover the loss of the turkeys and could receive financial assistance from USDA to offset some of the clean-up costs.