A sigh of relief is moving through farms this week as the Indiana Board of Animal Health has given the “all clear” after an outbreak of Avian flu in Southwestern Indiana.

“Absolutely a feeling of relief,” said Nathan Wagler, a turkey grower in the Montgomery area. “When this happens you just don’t know how bad, bad can get. You cross your fingers and keep moving on with hope. It’s been the same thing for the last six weeks. We’ve been covering out bases and just hope it gets better. Good news is that it sounds like it is getting better.”

The BOAH has been monitoring six farms, four in Dubois and two in Greene County. The first outbreak was in early February. Now, officials have released the quarantine areas that had extended to 6.2 miles around the infected locations. In total 171,224 birds were euthanized in the fight against the flu.

For farmers in between those two counties, the time has been difficult, and has led to some ramped up biosecurity.

“After the outbreak in 2015 we got used to a newer concept. So, with what happened the last few weeks it was not hard to adapt to the rules because for the most part we were already doing them,” said Wagler. “Avian flu is scary for turkey producers. It is like a bad dream and it is good to wake up.”

With the cases being in Greene and Dubois counties the belief is that the problems were brought in by migratory birds.

“That is a head scratching situation,” said Wagler. “Among the farmers the theory is that it was the result of migrating birds. You have the Goose Pond in Greene County and Patoka Lake in Dubois County. The migratory birds do seem to be the culprit.”

National turkey officials agree that the problem appeared to have come in on birds returning north for the summer.

“This case is clearly the result of migratory birds,” said President of the National Turkey Federation Joel Brandenberger. “The federal government surveils migratory birds and they are looking at the Mississippi valley flyway which covers Indiana. We have seen an increase in wild birds. The number of isolated cases pretty much confirms this was being brought in by migratory birds where we have limited and isolated transmission.”

Those limited cases though still had a big impact on southwestern Indiana. The state tested 1,561 commercial flocks in the region and an additional 452 backyard flocks.

“The industry in southern Indiana and the state government have shown themselves to be very good with swift responses that help contain things,” said Brandenberger. “There is nothing absolute but all of the ingredients are in place to keep this at a small contained event.”

While the all-clear has been announced there are still a few specific things that need to be wrapped up at the farms that were hit by the avian flu. The BOAH reports the Dubois County farms still are under quarantine until the final steps are completed. Those include compost disposal, virus elimination, environmental sampling for the presence of the virus and a fallow period.

Remaining growers are expected to remain on the lookout as the migratory season continues in the Mississippi flyway.

“We are going to have to keep a wary eye out for other potential threats from migratory birds,” said Wagler. “This will keep on until the weather warms up to around 70-75 degrees. We will run a little bit of a tight rope for a while.”

Indiana is the third largest turkey producer in the nation and most of the production in that multi-million-dollar industry is located in Daviess (number two turkey producer in Indiana) and Dubois Counties (number one turkey producer in Indiana).

That is reason enough to continue the concern for the avian flu.

“Avian influenza is something the entire industry worries about always and takes precautions against always,” said Brandenberger.
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