CHICAGO — The US Department of Agriculture on Wednesday reported an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian flu in an Indiana turkey flock, the nation’s first case in a commercial poultry operation since 2020.
Cases of the disease, known as bird flu, can hurt the US farm sector because poultry are killed and trading partners can limit imports from infected areas. China said on Monday it banned imports of poultry from Spain and Moldova due to outbreaks.
Bird flu does not present an immediate public health concern, the USDA said.
About 29,000 turkeys at the farm in Dubois County, Indiana, in the south of the state, are being culled to contain the outbreak, which was confirmed after 100 birds recently died, state officials said.
Indiana said the strain of the virus was H5N1 and that it was the state’s first case of highly pathogenic bird flu in commercial poultry since 2016, when 400,000 birds were killed. The H5N1 strain has also been found in wild birds along the US East Coast and caused a wave of outbreaks in poultry across Europe and Asia.
The outbreak in Indiana is significant because it indicates the strain has entered a migratory pathway for birds called the Mississippi Flyway, said Jim Sumner, president of the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council, an industry group. The pathway includes major poultry-producing states such as Mississippi and Alabama.
The H5N1 strain “has been wreaking havoc on Asia and Europe,” Sumner said. “We were hoping we could avoid this but it’s apparently in the flyways.”
Sumner said China will likely ban imports of poultry products from Indiana for 90 days, while Mexico will likely limit shipments temporarily from Dubois County only.
Indiana is the third biggest US turkey producing state, No. 1 in duck production and No. 2 in table eggs and egg-laying chickens, according to the state.
Officials quarantined the infected farm and said birds from the flock will not enter the food system. They are testing birds in the surrounding area for the disease. (Reporting by Tom Polansek Editing by Chris Reese and David Gregorio)