The last remaining quarantine associated with the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) cases identified in Dubois County, Ind. has officially been lifted by the Indiana State Board of Animal Health (BOAH). This quarantine release coincides with the state achieving avian influenza-free status, after logging 90 consecutive days with no new cases of the poultry disease.
On January 15, a commercial turkey farm in Dubois County was diagnosed with the H7N8 HPAI virus. Within 24 hours, another nine avian influenza-infected turkey farms were identified nearby through rapid surveillance testing. Those findings led to quarantines on all 10 farms, as well as the establishment of a 10-km (6.2-mile) radius Control Area that restricted movements of all poultry and poultry products onto and off of farms.
For 38 days, BOAH led the active response to eradicate the influenza virus from the area and assure safe and proper disposal of the birds. Indiana Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other state and local agencies assisted to prevent the situation from growing to levels seen in 2015 in the Upper Midwest, when a different HPAI strain caused the loss of 48 million birds on 223 farms. Indiana’s efforts focused on protecting the state’s $2.4 billion poultry industry that employs 14,000 Hoosiers.
State Veterinarian Bret D. Marsh, DVM stated that HPAI launched an unprecedented animal health event for Indiana and, in some aspects, for the nation. “In hindsight, we feel we got ahead of this virus by testing neighboring farms the first day. The discovery of so many AI-positive sites—nine—in one day was unheard of, even at the height of the 2015 event. Our teams in the field had to scale-up, overnight. But we did it, and completed the task, in 38 days,” he said.
Under USDA guidelines, HPAI-infected farms must dispose of birds, then clean and disinfect the facilities that must sit idle for at least 21 days, followed by environmental testing to verify no virus is present. Only then can a quarantine be lifted and the farm restocked with birds.
USDA also defines when a state can be declared avian influenza free, which is 90 days without new cases after carcass disposal was accomplished. BOAH’s goal has been to achieve this milestone to pave the way for international trade to be completely restored.
BOAH’s staff continues to work with the poultry industry on preventing another case of HPAI and plan for any future response. BOAH staff will oversee testing of the flocks as the previously infected flocked are restocked in the coming weeks.
Highly pathogenic avian influenza, or HPAI, refers to a class of flu viruses that are very deadly to some species of infected birds, including domestic poultry. The disease poses no food safety threat. Poultry meat and eggs are safe to eat.