Even if you have never owned a chicken, if you attend county fairs, even one, you likely know that poultry was not allowed to be exhibited at any county fairs or the Indiana State fair in 2015. In many counties poultry exhibitors were allowed to make and exhibit posters instead to complete the project. The space for poultry was empty in 2015 in many 4-H fair barns, and the barn was quiet!
That will apparently not be the case this year. Denise Derrer, communications director for the Indiana Board of Animal Health, says there are no plans to ban exhibition or sale of poultry at fairs, auctions, or flea markets this year.
On the surface that may seem puzzling, since Indiana had only one small backyard flock test positive a year ago, and over 400,000 birds were destroyed in southwest Indiana in January of 2016. Here are the questions posed to Derrer to explain the reasoning.
IPF: Why did you decide to impose a ban last year in the first place?
Derrer: Last year there was a lot going on, but a lot left unknown. The strains of avian flu circulating in Indiana and other states were Eurasian in origin. That means a domestic strain of avian flu cross-mutated with a foreign strain. The virus seemed to be spreading in unprecedented ways.
Is it true that only one backyard flock tested positive for avian flu in 2015?
Derrer: Yes. It was a small flock in Whitley County. It was a different strain than was identified in Iowa and Minnesota, but was also of Eurasian origin.
So what did BOAH hope to gain by imposing a ban?
Derrer: We needed to take some action to reduce the risk in Indiana. The decision was based on information available to BOAH at the time. These Eurasian strains were killing poultry very quickly and their spread was devastating to the U.S. poultry industry.
What is different now, after we had an actual outbreak in January?
Derrer: The H7N8 strain that was found in Dubois County is a native North American strain. It was not the same strain that caused problems in 2015. This H7N8 strain has been found in wild, migratory birds. So this is something that is out there, and that poultry owners, both big and small, must learn to live with. This year’s event truly points to the importance of biosecurity.
Ok, the strain is native- is that the only reason there is no ban in 2016?
Derrer: No. We recognize that we can’t ban exhibition and sale activities forever. The temporary moratorium gave poultry owners an opportunity to increase their awareness and biosecurity measures going forward.
Has anything else changed in regulations since 2015?
Derrer: We have adopted new recordkeeping requirements (for poultry owners). In the future these new requirements will help us with tracing any potential exposures or infected bird sources.