The recent bird flu outbreak has reached Johnson County, and the Johnson County 4-H Fair Poultry Show is in limbo.
Indiana State Board of Animal Health officials said April 26 that a flock of 41 chickens, ducks and peacocks in the Bargersville area tested positive for H5N1 avian flu. The Animal Health Board said the site was under quarantine and the animals would be euthanized.
The outbreak is not the first of the new strain of bird flu in Indiana, but was the first infection detected in domestic poultry.
Avian flu is often carried by wild birds, such as starlings or sparrows, and transmitted to poultry. The flu is so contagious and harmful to birds that if one flock member catches it, the entire flock should be euthanized, said Angie Gibbs, poultry project manager for Johnson County 4-H.
The risk of bird-to-human transmission is near zero and no human cases have been reported, she said.
“Sometimes there are no symptoms, you can cause birds to die for no apparent reason and sometimes they get a bluish tint to their skin, like someone is not able to breathe, and sometimes they have a very bad diarrhea,” Gibbs said. “A big indicator is if you have dead wild birds on your property. If you find three or four dead starlings or sparrows, that’s a good indicator that it may be there.
The Indiana State Board of Animal Health has been very cautious about avian flu. All 4-H activities involving birds were halted in February when the first cases of bird flu were discovered in Indiana, she said.
“There were no decisions on exhibits at the fair. We weren’t told ‘no,'” Gibbs said. “The only restrictions right now are that we can’t have live birds at 4-H club meetings and we can’t hold workshops with live birds. We are supposed to have a staging workshop where we would practice showing poultry and we have to practice with stuffed animals because we can’t have live birds. »
It would likely take a period of a few weeks before the county fair with no bird flu cases in Indiana if the Johnson County fair were to feature birds, she said.
The last time the Johnson County Fair ran without a poultry show was in 2015, in the midst of another bird flu outbreak. Things don’t look as bad now as they did that year, Gibbs said.
“Right now, nationally, it’s about half the amount affected from 2015. We’ve seen about 50% of the number of birds infected or culled now (compared to 2015), so at least c is promising,” Gibbs said.
The Franklin Community High School farm is not yet feeling the effects of the bird flu. The school holds about 160 birds in a pen attached to the high school, which will be used for its farm-to-table program, said Alicia Geesey, the school’s agricultural science teacher and FFA counselor.
“It would be difficult for us,” Geesey said of a possible outbreak. “It’s a project for our students and also, by raising this meat, we would like to use this meat in our school cafeterias and at the fair this summer.”
Geesey and FFA students do their best to isolate their birds and take measures like covering their shoes before entering the enclosure to protect the flock, Geesey said.
“One of the main ways the flu is transmitted is through direct bird-to-bird contact. Our birds are in a pen and no wild birds can enter our waters or our feeders. This limits the potential for spread…L Indiana State says Canadian geese are heavy carriers and many geese cross high school grounds,” Geesey said. “We are closely monitoring any potential symptoms in our flock, and so far, we haven’t had any… We’re not bringing any other birds and none of our birds are leaving.”