After a quiet fall, an avian influenza virus again has been detected in commercial poultry, this time in southern Indiana. Nine other cases have been found in that area since the first confirmed case on Jan. 14.
It has been identified as an H7N8 subtype, a different strain of virus than the H5 virus that devastated the Midwest last year. Turkeys had been tested for the virus after a higher than normal mortality rate occurred in the Indiana barn. As a result, 414,503 turkeys and chickens have been killed in the area.
As with last year’s virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers the risk to people to be low. There are no known cases of H7N8 infection in humans.
It is safe to consume turkey, chicken, eggs and other poultry products.
However, the industry does not want a repeat of last year, when 48 million birds were infected in 21 states, causing an egg shortage and increase in egg and turkey prices. It did not affect any turkey flocks or layer operations in Ohio.
It is important the nation keeps the domestic poultry population free from avian flu to avoid international trade problems. To address this concern, the poultry industry learned from 2015 the importance of quickly detecting the virus, killing infected flocks and disinfecting barns, and disposal of dead birds to control the disease.
The strategy is also to impose 21 days of down time with confirmed negative testing before repopulating the barns.
Ohio poultry producers are asked again to tighten biosecurity measures to reduce the chance of direct contact between infected and uninfected birds, and indirectly by objects that have come in contact with diseased birds, such as people, rodents, pets, feed, vehicles, and equipment.
Mohamed El-Gazzar, Ohio State University Extension poultry veterinarian, recommends the following practices:
• Minimize direct contact with infected birds.
• Avoid contact between your flock and other birds, wild and domestic, especially around open water and pastures.
• Prevent mixing between species within the same flocks, such as ducks, geese, and chickens, and between multiple ages of the same species.
• Purchase birds from National Poultry Improvement Plan disease-free sources.
• Quarantine new birds for a week before mixing with the rest of the flock.
• If you show birds, such as at fairs, quarantine for a week before returning to the main flock. Last year the Ohio Department of Agriculture banned shows to prevent the potential spread of the disease. It is considering the same thing after the outbreak in southern Indiana.
Practices to minimize indirect contact:
• Do not allow outside people to visit your flock. They could inadvertently carry the disease on their clothes, shoes, hands, or other objects brought with them.
• Dedicate specific clothes and shoes while working with your flock.
• Use disposable coveralls, gloves and shoe covers when working with your flock.
• Wash your hands before and after handling birds and their surroundings, including feed and water.
• Establish a hand-sanitizing station near the flock for use each time the poultry house is entered or exited.
• Do not allow pets near the flock.
• Animal-proof your poultry house, especially against birds and rodents.
• Acquire feed from trusted sources and properly store in a secure place safe from other animals.
• Drinking water should be the same quality as used by humans. Surface water from rivers, ponds, or puddles may contain the virus left by migratory wild birds.
If any local poultry owner notices birds dying at an alarming rate, contact the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, 614-728-6220, or, after hours, 888-456-3405.
Lentz is extension educator for agriculture and natural resources for The Ohio State University Extension Service in Hancock County. He can be reached at 419-422-3851 or via email at
Lentz can be heard with Vaun Wickerham on weekdays at 6:35 a.m. on WFIN, at 5:43 a.m. on WKXA-FM, and at 5:28 a.m. at 106.3 The Fox.