The state of Indiana is responding “swiftly and focused” to a confirmed positive test of highly pathogenic H5N8 avian influenza in poultry within a backyard, or hobby flock in Whitley County, located between Fort Wayne and Warsaw. The Indiana State Board of Animal Health (BOAH) was notified of the confirmation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory Monday.
Denise Derrer, Public Information Director at BOAH tells HAT there is absolutely no food safety risk associated with this avian influenza.
“The avian virus is not typically found in the meat of poultry. Furthermore our testing program the industry has here in the United States is superior to what is in the rest of the world because every shipment of birds or eggs for the food chain is tested for the presence of the disease. So if any load is found to be positive they are diverted and not taken to human food.”
She added there is minimal risk of human illness to even those who come in contact with these particular birds.
“The Center for Disease Control has state that there is very low risk for humans either from backyard birds, from wild birds, or from commercial poultry. People really don’t need to worry about getting sick from this, and in this particular case that we found the birds were a backyard hobby flock. They were not a commercial operation selling poultry or egg products into the food chain.”
BOAH has staff at the Whitley County site and has removed all of the birds to prevent spread of the disease. They are also investigating surrounding sites and the possible origin of the flu.
“The particular flock owner had purchased birds recently and so we are tracing back those birds to the folks he purchased from,” Derrer said. “We’re also trying to identify flock owners in that particular portion of Whitley County because we need to notify them that they’re now part of the control area.”(HAT interview with Denise Derrer:Denise Derrer Avian Influenza-1)
“The important aspect when something like this is found is quick action. Anything you can do to mitigate, confine, control and clarify is vital. In this case the Board of Animal Health took extraordinary, swift action.”
While the state does not yet know the origin of this H5N8, it’s very unusual that it would be found in Indiana.
“Up to this point this has only been found in California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho. That makes this very unique, having jumped all the way from at least Idaho all the way to Indiana. So we don’t yet know. Work is being done to clarify that or find out as much as we can.” (HAT interview with Brennan:Paul Brennan-ISPA)
Brennan added, “The Board of Animal Health has really focused a lot of attention and resources on epidemiology and trying to get a handle on this, which to this point throughout the country has not been an area of strength. We hope to change that in this particular incident.”
According to Derrer Friday night BOAH veterinarians collected samples from the flock, after the owner reported several chickens became ill and died. The hobby flock contained 77 birds of various species, including ducks, geese, chickens and turkeys. She credited the diagnostic lab at Purdue for working through the night to get test results by Saturday. Since they tested positive for H5 those samples were driven to the National Veterinary Services Lab in Ames, Iowa for final confirmation. That came in on Monday morning.
For signs of avian influenza, reporting the illness, and updates, visit the BOAH website.