Turkey company says its working with officials

HUNTINGBURG, Ind. (AP) — The company behind the commercial turkey farm in southern Indiana where bird flu was found says it is working closely with state and federal officials. Huntingburg-based Farbest Farms said in a news release Friday that its surveillance protocol for bird flu quickly...

HUNTINGBURG, Ind. (AP) — The company behind the commercial turkey farm in southern Indiana where bird flu was found says it is working closely with state and federal officials.

Huntingburg-based Farbest Farms said in a news release Friday that its surveillance protocol for bird flu quickly detected the H7N8 strain. It was

The strain was confirmed at a farm in Dubois County after there was a surge in turkey deaths, The U.S. Department of Agriculture said.

All 60,000 turkeys on the farm have been euthanized, Indiana Board of Animal Health spokeswoman Denise Derrer said Saturday.

The H7N8 strain is different than the H5N2 virus that led to the deaths of about 48 million turkeys and chickens last summer.

Research has shown that wild birds' northern migration introduced the H5N2 virus, which began to accelerate from farm to farm in the spring. But it isn't clear whether the mild winter weather played a role in the current outbreak, state and federal officials said. The highly pathogenic H7N8 virus has not yet been found in wild birds, suggesting that the virus could have developed in wild birds that spent the winter in southern Indiana, USDA spokeswoman Andrea McNally said Friday.

"We may know more once the remaining work on virus sequencing is completed, likely sometime next week," she said.

There's also no indication why H7N8 surfaced during winter months, but officials have said bird flu — any strain of it — could resurface anytime.

Farbest Farms' website says it produces about 15 million turkeys a year and has contract growers in Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky.

Indiana's poultry industry brings in $2.5 billion a year, Derrer said, adding that the state leads the country in duck production, is No. 3 in egg production and fourth in turkeys. Dubois County, about 70 miles west of Louisville, Kentucky, is Indiana's top poultry grower with 1.4 million turkeys, Derrer said Saturday.

The H7N8 strain is highly contagious for birds; the USDA said no human infections with the viral strain have been detected.

"I can't say it's our worst nightmare, but it's pretty close to it," Derrer said Friday, adding that there is a quarantine in place for commercial poultry farms and backyard flocks within a nearly 6-mile radius. "This is a very poultry-intense area of the state ... so we don't want to minimize the importance of this at all."

Meanwhile, federal and state partners are working together on additional surveillance and testing in Indiana, which is part of bird flu response plans that were drafted last year.

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Associated Press writers Rick Callahan in Indianapolis, David Pitt in Des Moines, Iowa, and Erica Hunzinger in Chicago contributed to this report.

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