In eastward jump, H5N8 surfaces in Indiana

The highly pathogenic H5N8 avian flu virus, previously found in the United States only in the West, has been detected in a backyard poultry flock in Indiana, state and federal officials announced today.

Meanwhile, Minnesota reported today that another turkey farm has been hit by the H5N2 virus. That virus, now widespread in the Midwest, is believed to be an offshoot of H5N8, which migrated to North America from Asia last year.

Indiana discovery

The H5N8 virus was detected in a backyard flock in northeastern Indiana's Whitley County, the Indiana State Board of Animal Health (BOAH) announced today. The board said state veterinarians collected samples from the flock after the owner reported that several chickens had died.

The flock comprised 77 birds, including ducks, geese, chickens and turkeys, the BOAH said. It said all of the birds were removed from the site to prevent further spread of the disease, and the board is contacting poultry owners in the area to raise awareness and determine if the disease has spread.

The H5N8 virus had previously been found only in the Pacific migratory bird flyway, the US Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health inspection Service (APHIS) noted in a statement. Indiana lies in the Mississippi flyway.

The virus, which originated in Asia, made its first known US appearance in a captive gyrfalcon in Washington state last December. It was subsequently found in a number of wild birds in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Nevada, in one commercial turkey flock and one commercial chicken flock in California, and in backyard poultry in Oregon.

Researchers say the H5N2 virus arose when H5N8 reassorted with North American H5 avian flu viruses in wild birds. In the United States, both strains were detected in Washington state about the same time.

Both H5N8 and H5N2 are believed to pose little risk to humans, as no human infections with either strain have been reported.

H5N2 in Minnesota

In Minnesota, where the turkey industry has been hit hard by H5N2 outbreaks the past 2 months, a new one was reported today on a turkey farm in Swift County in the west-central part of the state. It borders Kandiyohi County, where 31 turkey farms have been struck by the virus.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) said the outbreak is Swift County's seventh. The size of the flock has not yet been reported.

H5N2 has affected 85 Minnesota farms in 21 counties, with close to 5.7 million birds killed by the virus or culled to prevent its spread, the DPS said. Remaining birds on 82 farms have been euthanized, the agency reported.

In neighboring Iowa, where egg farms have been hit hard by H5N2, the state agriculture department reported no new outbreaks by late this afternoon. The state had 44 outbreaks by the end of last week.

See also:

May 11 APHIS statement

May 11 Indiana BOAH statement

USDA table of H5N2 and H5N8 findings in poultry and captive wild birds

May 11 Minnesota DPS update

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