A new strain of the deadly avian influenza virus has been found in a commercial turkey flock in Indiana, according to USDA.
The agency announced the news Friday. The farm has been quarantined, and officials have already begun depopulating the flock. According to the Indiana Board of Animal Health, there are 65 commercial poultry flocks within a 10-kilometer radius of the affected operation.
“This finding of highly pathogenic H7N8 is unique to Indiana and the nation,” said Indiana State Veterinarian Bret D. Marsh, DVM. “This strain is unrelated to those identified in the Upper Midwest in 2015, nor is it related to the HPAI case identified in a Northeastern Indiana backyard poultry flock that was affected last May.”
The previous strain, known as H5N2, resulted in the depopulation of more than 49 million birds, including chickens and turkeys. It is thought to spread via wild migratory waterfowl and has not been detected in a U.S. flock since June 2015.
USDA now has a vaccine for that older strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza (H5N2), but U.S. poultry producers have been reluctant to use it; they are concerned that vaccine worries will cause countries to close their doors to imports of U.S. chicken.
Indiana state officials say they are taking this new avian flu outbreak seriously.
“Indiana is one of the largest poultry states in America, and I have directed all relevant agencies to bring the full resources of the state of Indiana to bear on containing and resolving the issue as quickly as possible," said Governor Mike Pence. "Multiple state agencies have been heavily focused for nearly a year on the necessary steps in this type of event, including the State Board of Animal Health, Indiana State Department of Agriculture, Indiana Department of Homeland Security, Indiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, Indiana Department of Environmental Management, Indiana State Poultry Association, and several private sector partners. Hoosiers can be assured that we are taking all precautions to contain the situation and minimize the effects to Indiana’s robust poultry industry.”
Such disease outbreaks can be financially and emotionally devastating. for producers and local economies. Economically, the 2015 bird flu epidemic cost an estimated $1 billion, with Minnesota and Iowa the most signficantly affected.
According to the Indiana Board of Animal Health, the state's $2.5 billion poultry industry ranks fourth nationally in turkey production, first in duck production, third in eggs, and is a significant producer of broiler chickens. It also employs more than 14,000 people.
USDA urged all poultry producers, regardless of whether they manage a small backyard flock or a big commercial chicken or turkey farm, to renew their biosecurity efforts. (Producers can find a biosecurity self-assessment and more information by clicking here.)