UPDATE 2-Bird flu found in Indiana; 15th state to report it

Mon May 11, 2015 6:25pm EDT
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(Adds comments from USDA, details on economic impact)

By P.J. Huffstutter

May 11 (Reuters) - A strain of avian flu that until now had been found only in the Western United States has cropped up in Indiana, bringing the total number of states affected by the virulent outbreak to 15, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said on Monday.

The eastward spread of any strain of the highly contagious H5 virus is worrying to farmers and investigators, who have hoped that warmer spring weather would help lower the number of infections in birds and curtail the virus' spread.

The H5N8 strain found in a backyard poultry flock in Indiana is concerning to them also. It is different from the H5N2 strain that has been confirmed in scores of Midwestern farms and resulted in the death or culling of nearly 30 million birds so far.

The highly pathogenic H5N8 strain had been seen only in the Pacific flyway during this outbreak. Federal and state officials have confirmed it in commercial chicken and turkey farms in California and a backyard poultry flock in Oregon. It was also found in captive falcons in Idaho and Washington, according to the USDA.

How the H5N8 virus moved eastward is not yet known.

"We're working on the epidemiology, but the new finding of H5N8 is mostly likely due to a new introduction by waterfowl," USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service spokeswoman Joelle Hayden said in a statement.

The H5 strains in the current U.S. outbreak pose a low risk to human health, experts say, and no human infections have been identified so far.   Continued...