Indiana to lift most bird flu outbreak restrictions Feb. 22

Penned turkeys look through the fencing on a poultry farm in Evans City, Pa. on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Animal health officials monitoring the bird flu outbreak in southwestern Indiana say they will lift most restrictions in two weeks if ongoing testing finds no additional infections.

The last positive bird flu case in Dubois County — Indiana’s top turkey-producing county that’s about 70 miles west of Louisville, Kentucky — came Jan. 16.

If no additional cases of the H7N8 strain are found, testing and surveillance of commercial poultry farms will end Feb. 22 within a 12.4-mile radius around the first turkey farm where the virus was detected, State Board of Animal Health spokeswoman Denise Derrer said Monday.

That means poultry producers in that area would no longer need permits to ship their birds or eggs, and also won’t have their products to test negative for the virus within 24 hours of shipment.

But quarantines will remain on the 10 farms where more than 414,000 turkeys and chickens were euthanized last month to help contain the outbreak. Once those carcasses are composted to destroy the virus, the livestock buildings must be sterilized and declared virus-free.

Viral testing continues and 100 backyard flocks will undergo a second round of tests this week.

Derrer said officials remain cautiously optimistic that the outbreak is contained.

“We’ve still feeling good about it. And we continue to have tests coming back negative,” she said, noting that a state laboratory at Purdue University has processed more than 2,100 tests, all negatives.

Purdue agricultural economist Philip Paarlberg said the 414,000 birds euthanized in Indiana’s outbreak hasn’t had any significant impact on turkey and eggs prices. Indiana’s outbreak is small compared with the 48 million chickens and turkeys lost during last year’s H5N2 bird flu virus outbreak that mostly affected the Upper Midwest.

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