(Indianapolis, IN) - The Avian Flu has now turned up in Michigan while the list of commercial turkey farms infected by the highly contagious virus keeps growing in southern Indiana.
Two cases of bird flu have also been confirmed now in western Kentucky at a commercial broiler chicken operation in Fulton County and a commercial turkey farm in Webster County. The virus has also been discovered in other states, including a backyard flock as far north as Maine.
Despite quarantines on areas surrounding infected poultry operations, there’s nothing to stop migratory birds like ducks and geese from transmitting the virus in their droppings while in flight.
“When the migratory waterfowl starts moving as they do in late winter and early spring, they can be bringing flu viruses with them as they’re making their migratory path across the continent,” said Denise Derrer Spears, Communications Director for the Indiana Board of Animal Health.
Avian Flu is also carried by other birds like swans, owls, and hawks. In addition, infected droppings at a poultry operation can spread to chickens and turkeys if there’s contact between the farm-raised and wild birds or if the droppings are carried or tracked into barns on things like shoes and clothing.
Spears said the virus doesn’t seem nearly as harmful to non-commercial birds. It’s very deadly, though, to chickens and turkeys.
Avian Flu was confirmed in Indiana in early February for the first time since 2016. Spears said a several-month-long outbreak in 2015 resulted in the loss of more than 400,000 turkeys at 11 poultry farms in Dubois County in the southwest part of the state. The virus that year also claimed about 50 million commercial birds in more than 20 states.
Another outbreak of the virus in Indiana in 2016 produced much fewer losses and lasted for just a couple of weeks, she said.
Bird flu is not always an issue because different strains vary in strength and contagiousness. The most predominant variant can also change from year to year.
“This just happens to be a particular strain that’s causing a lot of problems this year,” Spears said.
The case in Michigan was confirmed at a non-commercial backyard flock in Kalamazoo County, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development announced on February 24.
A standard quarantine of the area was imposed. An advisory was also issued for poultry owners to increase bio-security measures and keep wild birds out to protect their flocks.
“Simply put, no matter how many birds or which type of birds someone owns, now is the time to protect them,” said Michigan State Veterinarian Dr. Nora Wineland.
The third case of the Avian Flu at a commercial operation in Dubois County was confirmed on February 23, not long after the second verified case in nearby Greene County. All of the 150,000+ turkeys at the five infected Indiana farms were quickly asphyxiated by filling the barns through the open floor with a foam-like substance above their heads.
“It’s part of the emergency response of finding the method that works for how the farm is set up,” she said.
Dubois County is the largest turkey-producing county in Indiana, ranking third nationwide in turkey production.