By Michele F. Mihaljevich
INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana can once again export its poultry products worldwide as no new cases of avian flu have been reported in commercial poultry flocks in the state in more than three months, according to the Indiana State Board of Animal Health (BOAH).
Indiana’s – and the nation’s – first case of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) this year was found in a commercial turkey flock in Dubois County in February. The disease later spread to other turkey operations in the county and in Greene County. Commercial duck flocks were also infected in Elkhart County. The state’s last case in a commercial flock was confirmed April 20 at a duck operation in the county.
In all, nine commercial premises (six turkey, three duck) were impacted statewide, BOAH said. More than 171,000 turkeys and 17,000 ducks were destroyed.
Last week, BOAH announced the state was HPAI-free, meaning international trade for Indiana poultry products can be restored. To be declared HPAI-free, 28 days must have passed since the last poultry operation in the state with positive cases was released from quarantine, said Denise Derrer Spears, BOAH public information director.
To be released from quarantine, operations must complete virus elimination measures such as cleaning and disinfecting, she explained.
All control areas and surveillance zones established after positive cases were found have been released, BOAH said.
Spears cautioned that the HPAI-free designation doesn’t mean the state has been given the all-clear from the disease.
“I don’t know if we can ever claim we’re all clear,” she stated. “This virus is out there in the environment, in the wild bird population. The potential is there (for the virus to return).”
Avian flu was recently confirmed in Florida for the first time and is still active in other parts of the country, Spears said. The disease has been found in 38 states in a variety of species, including waterfowl, raptors, American robins and wild turkeys, BOAH said.
Migrating birds can spread the disease and officials are concerned about the fall, she noted. “Going into fall, we have another migration coming. This virus doesn’t seem to be letting up. It doesn’t seem to be dissipating. We may get another upswing in the fall as birds go on the move again.”
BOAH is urging poultry producers to remain on alert for sudden death in poultry without clinical signs. Other symptoms include lack of energy or appetite, lack of coordination, and swelling and purple discoloration of the head, eyelids, combs or hocks.
“We’re telling commercial flock owners to be aware and to stay vigilant,” Spears said. “Don’t let your guard down.”
Before the 2022 cases, HPAI was last found in commercial poultry nationwide in 2020 and in Indiana in 2016, BOAH said.
HPAI doesn’t present a food safety risk, BOAH said. The disease presents a low risk to the health of the general public, the agency noted, adding rare human infections are possible.
Indiana ranks first in the production of ducks nationwide and third in turkey production, according to BOAH.