The Indiana State Board of Animal Health (BOAH) annouced on Sturday that nine more commercial turkey farms in Dubois County had tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza. This brings the total to 10 commercial turkey operations infected.
Laboratory testing of samples from eight of nine Southern Indiana turkey flocks was completed overnight on Saturday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa. While all nine were announced as H7 influenza-positive on Saturday, the specific strain had yet to be determined. The Indiana State Board of Animal Health (BOAH) was informed on Sunday that eight are low-pathogenic H7N8. Testing continues on the remaining sample.
Indiana State Veterinarian Bret D. Marsh, DVM calls this good news, and evidence that Indiana’s aggressive surveillance and response efforts in Dubois County are working. “The low-path H7N8 virus was identified during testing in the 10-km zone around the initial flu-positive flock,” Dr. Marsh said. “Because flu viruses are constantly mutating, we want to catch any case as early as possible after infection. We know this virus strain can intensify, so finding these cases as low-path strains shows we are keeping pace with the spread of this disease in the area.” Dr. Marsh added, “This finding does not alter the aggressive control strategy BOAH has set forth. Nor does it change our resolve to eliminate this virus wherever we find it.”
All positive flocks are located within the original control area and were identified by surveillance testing. New 10 km circles have been drawn to expand the control area slightly beyond Dubois County into Martin, Orange, Crawford and Davies counties. Depopulation activities are underway on most of the sites. Depopulation of the index site was completed Saturday morning. All infected flocks are located in Dubois County, Indiana.
Governor Pence met with state and federal officials in Jasper on Saturday for an update on the situation. After the briefing he said, “I appreciate the vigorous actions our state agencies are taking to isolate and manage this situation and appreciate the diligence and involvement of Dubois County community leaders who joined me at today’s briefing.” BOAH stated that poultry flocks in the surrounding area are being tested daily for the presence of avian influenza. State and federal agencies are working alongside the poultry operations to minimize the impact and eliminate the disease.
Priority response by the state of Indiana and USDA continues on all the infected farms. Turkeys are being humanely euthanized on infected sites within 24 hours of diagnosis. Depopulation eliminates the source of infection to prevent the disease from spreading. Disposal of the turkeys, primarily via indoor composting, will be followed by thorough cleaning and disinfection of all barns.
Aggressive testing of other poultry farms in the area continues. As of Sunday afternoon, commercial farms have yielded 100 negative flu tests, beyond the nine new positives. In addition, state and federal teams have visited 503 residences in the area to identify any small flocks for testing. Tests are pending on 17 small flocks. Residential visits will continue in the 10-km area.
The exact number of farms affected or their exact locations can’t be released at this time, said Joseph Romero, the director of planning for the Indiana Department of Homeland Security. Dubois County Emergency Management Agency Director Tammy Humbert wants people to be aware that isn’t advised to go on a tour of the affected area anytime soon. “Don’t go out looking for this. Stay away,” Humbert said. “We don’t want people going into the areas.”
“The state of Indiana is going to work in full partnership with all of our producers to ensure that all the resources that are available through the USDA are secured to mitigate the financial impact here,” Pence said. “This could have a major, major economic impact on so many people in Dubois County because we are so active in Dubois County in the turkey and chicken business,” added Dubois County Council President Greg Kendall.
According to a statement released by BOAH, in addition to the HxNx naming scheme for specific strains, AI viruses are further classified by their pathogenicity—the ability of a particular virus strain to produce disease in domestic chickens. Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus strains are extremely infectious, often fatal to domestic poultry, and can spread rapidly from flock to flock. Low pathogenicity avian influenza (LPAI) virus strains occur naturally in wild migratory waterfowl and shorebirds without causing illness. LPAI viruses have the potential to mutate into HPAI.