A bird flu virus that's a different strain than the one that ravaged turkey and chicken farms in the Midwest last summer has been found at a southern Indiana turkey farm, federal officials said Friday.
The H7N8 flu strain was confirmed at a commercial turkey farm in Dubois County, about 70 miles west of Louisville, Kentucky, after samples from birds were taken when the farm saw a surge in turkey deaths, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The strain is highly contagious for birds; the USDA said no human infections with the viral strain have been detected.
It's a different strain than the H5N2 virus that cost turkey and egg producers, mostly in the Upper Midwest, about 48 million birds.
Wild birds' northern migration was blamed for the original spread of the H5N2 virus, which began to accelerate widely in the spring, not the winter months. Indiana wildlife experts said that southern migration happened later than normal this year because of the mild weather, but it's unclear "how much of a factor that has been in this," according to Indiana Board of Animal Health spokeswoman Denise Derrer.
"We hope we can get some more information as we do a little bit of epidemiology down at that site," she said, noting that the virus spreads between birds through eye or beak mucous or feces.
Indiana's poultry industry brings in $2.5 billion a year, Derrer said, adding that the state leads the country in duck production, is No. 3 in egg production and fourth in turkeys.
The farm where the viral strain was confirmed Thursday night has about 60,000 turkeys, and the entire flock is being euthanized to prevent the disease from spreading, Indiana Board of Animal Health spokeswoman Denise Derrer said. She added that a quarantine is in place for commercial poultry farms and backyard flocks within a nearly 6-mile radius.
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"I can't say it's our worst nightmare, but it's pretty close to it," she said. "This is a very poultry-intense area of the state, and our poultry industry is pretty significant here in Indiana, so we don't want to minimize the importance of this at all."
The USDA said federal and state partners are working together on additional surveillance and testing in the area, which is part of bird flu response plans that were drafted last year.