The last remaining quarantine imposed last winter on southwestern Indiana poultry farms swept by a bird flu outbreak has been lifted, a step officials hope prompts nations that banned poultry imports from the state or entire U.S. to end those sanctions.
The quarantine at the farm in Dubois County — Indiana's top turkey-producing region — was lifted Sunday when it was declared virus-free following the composting and disposal of its euthanized birds and thorough cleanings of its poultry barns.
State Board of Animal Health spokeswoman Denise Derrer said the first of the 10 farms where the H7N8 viral strain infected birds in January had its quarantine lifted March 19. The nine other farms saw their quarantines lifted in the intervening weeks.
"Everything is off quarantine now — all of it," Derrer said Monday.
Indiana Avian Flu Quarantine Lifted
As the 10 farms start restocking their birds, each will be tested 30 days later as an added precaution, she said.
The H7N8 virus was found in mid-January at one Dubois County turkey farm before being detected at nine other poultry farms in the county about 70 miles west of Louisville, Kentucky. More than 414,000 turkeys and chickens were euthanized to contain the bird flu outbreak on those farms and others nearby.
Derrer said the lifting of the last of the 10 quarantines coincides with Indiana meeting the World Organization of Animal Health's criteria for being virus-free after going 90 consecutive days with no new cases of the poultry disease.
Some nations blocked poultry imports from all of Indiana, or parts of Indiana, while others blocked poultry imports from the entire U.S., said Paul Brennan, executive vice president of the Indiana State Poultry Association.
Now that Indiana has met the virus-free criteria, Brennan expects nations such as Mexico — a significant importer of U.S. poultry — to eventually end their bans on poultry from Indiana, which has the nation's fourth-largest poultry industry.
"These are all decisions made by each country, but hopefully some of those decisions will now reverse themselves," he said.
One of the farms hit by the virus, Tip Top Turkey Farm in Jasper, had to euthanize its 23,000 turkeys in January. But owner Stephen Sander said his farm is now back in business.
Two weeks ago, he filled his brooder house with day-old turkeys and once those birds get a little older they'll move to another barn where they'll grow into adults.
"We're really glad this is finally over and everything is back to near normal," Sander said Monday.