Bird Flu Found in Indiana Turkey Flock

By Jeff Wilson and | January 19, 2016

The U.S. government confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic H7N8 avian influenza in a commercial turkey flock in Indiana, the country’s first case since the end of last year’s outbreak that led to the destruction of 50 million animals.

The strain discovered at a 60,000-bird flock in Dubois County is different from those that caused last year’s outbreak, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service said Jan. 15 in a statement on its website. Federal and state authorities are monitoring and testing the nearby area, it said, without naming the exact site.

U.S. poultry producers have been on edge after recent cases in France. The U.S. outbreak, which ended in June, led to record-high egg prices and caused some shortages of turkey deli meat used in subs and sandwiches. It cost the industry $3.3 billion.

Producers have been discussing the new outbreak in a series of conference calls since they first became aware of the Indiana case, said John Brunnquell, president of Egg Innovations Inc., which produces free-range eggs in farms across the Midwest. The response has been rapid, with the killing of birds going on throughout the night, he said in the interview.

Surprise Appearance

“The timing of the disease was a surprise because most in the industry did not think it would reappear for another two or three months,” said Terry Reilly, a senior commodity analyst for Futures International LLC in Chicago.

About 65 egg and turkey farms are within 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) of the affected barn, Brunnquell said. The area is home to an estimated 4.5 million egg-layers and about 1 to 2 million turkeys.

Indiana’s poultry industry ranks fourth nationally in turkey production, first in duck production and third in eggs, and is a significant producer of broiler chickens.

Shares of poultry producer Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. fell the most in more than two months after the announcement, and were 6.4 percent lower at $21.57 at 1:52 p.m. in New York. Tyson Foods Inc., which produces chicken and other meats, fell as much as 5.5 percent.

The case of avian flu in Indiana doesn’t involve Tyson Foods, spokesman Gary Mickelson said in an e-mailed response.

The news of the case of bird flu was a boost for Cal-Maine Foods Inc., the largest U.S. egg supplier. Its stock jumped as much as 11 percent.

Avian influenza doesn’t present a food safety risk. All shipments of poultry and eggs are tested to ensure the absence of avian influenza before moving into the food supply. The Centers for Disease Control considers the risk of illness to humans to be very low.

With assistance from Shruti Date Singh

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