The search is on for any other bird flocks potentially infected with the avian flu virus in Daviess County.

Last week the Indiana State Board of Animal Health reported a flock of 13,000 turkeys in northeastern Daviess County was found to have contracted the highly contagious disease. That flock has since been depopulated and health officials are looking for other potential infections.

“We have started going door-to-door to find the small flocks in the area, the home flocks that wouldn’t necessarily be registered with us,” said State Department of Animal Health spokesperson Denise Deerer. “We are doing that in the three- kilometer zone around the farm. So far, we have located 57 flocks and will be testing those this week.”

So far, the avian flu has been limited to the one farm in the northeastern part of the county.

“We did testing, immediately on all of the commercial flocks in the control area, 45 flocks and an additional 56 in the surveillance zone,” she said. “Everything is going textbook so far.”

Work is already underway on the farm that was hit by the flu. The birds were depopulated and now the process is starting to carry out a cleanup of the facilities.

“There’s a whole process they have to go through,” Deerer said. “They start by composting the turkeys. The compost piles have to be managed and then removed. After that the barns are disinfected, top-to-bottom. This can take a month or more.”

The case in Daviess County was the first reported one in Indiana this year. With Daviess County being the second largest turkey producing county in the state, the report raised alarm bells with producers throughout the area.

“All of the information we were given was from our field person and they said for us to lock the hatches down again,” said Nathan Wagler, a turkey farmer in the southeast part of the county who has a flock of around 100,000 birds. “We are serious about biosecurity all of the time. There is a protocol and we have bioinspections every year to keep contracts.”

The avian flu is spread by wild birds like geese and ducks. Deerer says outbreaks are common along the wild bird flyways through the Midwest. In fact, popular wildlife areas like the Goosepond, Patoka Lake and Glendale draw those waterfowl.

“The source of those hipath avian inf luenza is migratory waterfowl. You have migratory birds moving now. They spread it in their droppings. Wherever they stop they are spreading disease. No place is really safer than anywhere else,” she said. “There is a lot of activity with the wild birds because the area is in the flyway. Some of wetlands and large lakes will attract those birds. When you get those things intersecting the risk increases.”

Turkey growers in the area tend to practice intense biosecurity on their farms. With the avian flu still being able to make its way into the barns there is question now that the virus may have turned airborne.

“This is absolutely frustrating and frightening,” said Wagler. “The speculation is more and more pointing to airborne spores, versus being carried in by humans. We bio-security until we can’t bio-security anymore and it just randomly hits a farm. It almost appears it is being pulled in by the ventilation system.”

Deerer points out that while the avian flu is deadly to birds, there is no danger to the public.

“There is no food safety risk,” she said. “Before eggs get shipped, they get tested. Before birds get processed, they get tested. Sick birds do not get into the food chain.”
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