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Avian Flu (Bird Flu)

What is avian influenza?

There are four types of influenza viruses, A, B, C, and D. Avian influenza (AI) refers to the infection of birds with avian influenza type A viruses. This infection affects multiple bird species throughout the world. There are many subtypes of avian influenza viruses (AIV) based on a combination of two proteins, hemagglutinin (H) and neuraminidase (N). There are 16 H subtypes and 9 N subtypes. AIVs are further classified based on their ability to experimentally produce disease and mortality in chickens. Highly pathogenic subtypes (HPAI) produce disease and are often fatal, while low pathogenic subtypes (LPAI) are often asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic in chickens. The terms “HPAI” and “LPAI” are not associated with severity of illness in humans.

What animals get avian influenza?

AI affects wild and domestic bird species, primarily waterfowl, raptors, and domestic poultry. Wild Turkeys can also be affected by Avian Influenza, but this is rare. HPAI can quickly decimate an entire flock of poultry. Raptors can become infected by eating infected prey or by coming in contact with surfaces that are contaminated with the virus. Some subtypes of AIV can affect mammals such as pigs, cats, horses, dogs, and ferrets, as well as humans. In 2022 cases of AI infection in red foxes were detected in the United States for the first time in Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, and Minnesota. Wild land birds (such as birds that use backyard feeders) can carry the virus without becoming sick.

What is the status of avian influenza?

Three subtypes have been detected in the United States, H5N1, H5N2, and H5N8:

  • H5N1 detected in the United States is a subtype with a reassortment of genes from HPAI H5 Eurasian viruses and LPAI viruses from North America. This U.S. subtype is not known to cause human illness.
  • H5N2 was first detected in British Columbia, Canada in December 2014. This H5N2 is a reassortment of Eurasian H5 and North American N2 viruses.
  • H5N8 is a Eurasian subtype first detected on the West Coast in wild birds in December 2014. A new variation of this subtype was detected in Dubois County, Indiana in January 2016.

The largest outbreak of AI in the U.S. occurred in 2015, when subtype H5N2 affected more than 49 million domestic birds across 21 states. By March 2015, H5N2 was detected in the Midwest and, as of June 9, 2015, 21 states reported HPAI. Minnesota and Iowa experienced the largest number of cases (105 and 74 facilities, respectively). All 2015 HPAI cases in the Midwest consisted of the H5N2 subtype except the case in Indiana. The subtype detected in Indiana in spring 2015 was the Eurasian H5N8 subtype, which had been previously detected only along the West Coast.

In 2021, a strain of H5N1 HPAI was detected in North America. The first confirmation was in December 2021, in a Newfoundland and Labrador exhibition farm. Multiple bird species including chickens, turkeys, geese, ducks, emus, Guinea fowl and peafowl were exposed. As a result of this outbreak, 360 birds died from AI, and another 59 were culled. Since this time, a second noncommercial farm in Newfoundland and Labrador also experienced an outbreak and H5N1 was confirmed in a Canada goose in Nova Scotia. In January and February 2022, wild bird species in multiple Eastern U.S. states tested positive for this strain.

You can track wild bird AI findings on the USDA APHIS website. To see the current distribution of positive detections in wild and domestic birds, visit the National Wildlife Health Center’s webpage.

What is the status of avian influenza in Indiana?

In February 2022, H5N1 HPAI was first confirmed in a commercial turkey farm in Indiana in Dubois County. As of April 2022, HPAI had been confirmed at nine commercial poultry facilities in three other counties. You can track updates on locations and containment at the Indiana State Board of Animal Health’s (BOAH) HPAI website.

Current AI detections in wild birds in Indiana are listed below:

County Date Detected AI Strain Bird Type
Dubois March 2022 H5N1 Redhead duck
Starke April 2022 H5N1 Bald eagle
Miami April 2022 H5N1 Bald eagle
Johnson April 2022 H5N1 Red-tailed hawk
ShelbyApril 2022H5N1Bald eagle
JohnsonMay 2022H5N1Great horned owl
LakeMay 2022H5N1Double crested cormorant
AllenMay 2022H5N12 Red-tailed hawk
AllenMay 2022H5N1Great horned owl
AllenJune 2022H5N1Red-tailed hawk
HancockJune 2022H5N1Canada goose
MarionJune 2022H5N1Canada goose
MarionJune 2022H5N1Eastern screech owl
MarionJune 2022H5N1Barred owl

In May 2015, AIV was detected in a backyard, mixed poultry flock in Whitley County, Indiana. BOAH confirmed that approximately two-thirds of the flock was positive for HPAI H5N8. The entire flock was depopulated. After extensive surveillance and testing by both BOAH and the Division of Fish & Wildlife (DFW) in both domestic and wild birds within a 6.2-mile radius buffer around the positive flock, BOAH lifted the quarantine for the Whitley County case.

On Jan. 15, 2016, AIV was detected in a commercial turkey facility in Dubois County, Indiana. The birds within the facility tested positive for HPAI H7N8, which was a new North American variant of the subtype found on the West Coast. A 6.2-mile control area and a 12.4-mile surveillance zone were established around the affected facility. Subsequent testing within the control area by BOAH and the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) identified eight turkey facilities that tested positive for a low pathogenic strain of H7N8 avian influenza. While BOAH and APHIS tested domestic flocks and wildlife on the positive premises, the DFW began testing wild birds within both the control area and the surveillance zone. No additional facilities tested positive for AIV. Eleven poultry facilities were depopulated within the control area due to detection of HPAI H7N8 (one facility), detection of LPAI H7N8 (in eight commercial turkey facilities), or proximity (one commercial turkey facility and one commercial chicken facility) to the positive HPAI H7N8 facility.

  1. No additional facilities tested positive for AIV. Eleven poultry facilities were depopulated within the control area due to detection of HPAI H7N8 (one facility), detection of LPAI H7N8 (in eight commercial turkey facilities), or proximity (one commercial turkey facility and one commercial chicken facility) to the positive HPAI H7N8 facility.
  2. No wild birds sampled by DFW tested positive for the HPAI subtypes H5 or H7. The DFW tested 126 wild birds both within and outside of the control area and surveillance zone.
  3. Surveillance continued within the established control area/surveillance zone by all entities until BOAH lifted the quarantines.

What AIV surveillance is DNR Fish & Wildlife doing?

In response to HPAI outbreaks in multiple commercial poultry farms around the state, DNR Fish & Wildlife (DFW) has partnered with USDA-APHIS to increase wild bird surveillance. DFW personnel continually conduct opportunistic sampling of wild birds across the state for AIV. If you encounter a wild bird species that is displaying clinical signs of AIV, please report it using the Indiana DNR Sick and Dead Wildlife online reporting tool.

What is the risk to people?

Very few types of AI can infect humans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers the risk to people from AI viruses to be low. The U.S. has a strong AIV surveillance program that has been in place for many years. Federal, state and industry partners respond quickly to outbreaks and follow five general steps: 1) Quarantine, 2) Eradicate, 3) Monitor, 4) Disinfect, and 5) Test.

What are the signs of HPAI in birds?

Clinical signs of HPAI in birds include one or more of the following:

  • Sudden death
  • Neurological impairment (e.g., lack of coordination, swimming in circles, tremors, twisted neck)
  • Lack of energy and appetite
  • Decrease in egg production, soft-shelled or misshapen eggs
  • Swelling of the head, eyelids, wattles, hocks, and comb
  • Purple discoloration of wattles, combs, and legs
  • Nasal discharge, cough, sneezing, lack of coordination, and diarrhea

How is HPAI spread?

Once introduced, HPAI can spread quickly through manure, equipment, vehicles, egg flats, crates, people’s clothing and shoes, water, and, potentially, feed. Research continues to determine if there are other vectors. AIV can remain viable for long periods of time in water and at moderate temperatures. The virus can survive indefinitely in frozen conditions.

How can you prevent the spread of AIV?

Practice proper hygiene and good biosecurity. If you keep birdfeeders and birdbaths on your property, clean them regularly with hot water and a 10% bleach solution, rinse thoroughly, and then allow birdfeeders to completely dry before refilling. Clean up birdseed that has fallen below birdfeeders. Do not feed wild birds, especially waterfowl, near domestic flocks. If you come in contact with any bird that appears unhealthy, wash your hands with soap and water, and change clothing and shoes before coming in contact with a domestic flock or captive birds. Read more about biosecurity for domestic birds.

We also encourage hunters to practice safe handling of harvested birds:

  • Do not harvest birds that appear obviously sick or found dead
  • Process birds outdoors or in a well-ventilated area
  • Wear gloves and wash hands before and after handling the carcass
  • Disinfect all equipment that comes into contact with dead birds (e.g., knives, surfaces)
  • Refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, and touching your eyes during processing
  • Double bag feathers and all bird remains prior to disposal. Place bird remains in the inner bag and tie closed. Dispose of gloves in the outer bag before tying closed.
  • Cook meat thoroughly

More information about safe hunting practices can be found at USDA-APHIS

Report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to state/federal officials through the following:

Poultry: BOAH healthy bird hotline: 1-866-536-7593
Wild Birds: DNR Fish & Wildlife: Sick or dead wildlife can be reported online at on.IN.gov/sickwildlife.

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