INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Frigid temperatures are hampering efforts to euthanize turkeys at several southwestern Indiana farms where a strain of bird flu was found last week, freezing the hoses used to spread a foam that suffocates the affected flocks, a spokeswoman for a state agency said Monday.
The H7N8 virus was discovered on 10 turkey farms in Dubois County, which is Indiana's top poultry-producing county, last week.
Temperatures that dipped into the teens and single digits over the weekend stymied efforts to fill the affected poultry barns with the foam to a level just above the turkeys' heads to suffocate them, said Denise Derrer of the Indiana State Board of Animal Health.
"The water's been freezing up. It's slowing things down, but we're doing the best we can," she said.
Derrer said state workers, staff from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and others have been using carbon dioxide gas instead of the foam. Other turkeys are being killed manually with a device that delivers a fatal head injury, but that method is slow and inefficient, she said.
While the USDA has a goal of euthanizing infected poultry within 24 hours of the discovery of infected flocks, it's not a requirement, Derrer said, adding that workers are trying to euthanize flocks as quickly as possible.
As of Monday, nearly 120,000 turkeys had been killed on four of the farms, while efforts to euthanize about 121,000 turkeys continued on six other farms.
The H7N8 strain is different than the H5N2 virus that led to the deaths of 48 million birds last summer, mostly in the upper Midwest.
The first farm where H7N8 was found had a highly contagious form of the virus, Derrer said, but tests by USDA staff have shown eight of the other nine turkey farms have a "low pathogenic" form, meaning the birds are more likely to get sick but not die.
The results also suggest that the outbreaks were caught earlier in the disease cycle before the virus had a chance to mutate and become more virulent. Test results on viral samples taken from the ninth farm are still pending.
All of the affected farms were within six miles of the first one; officials are still monitoring other farms and backyard flocks within that distance, Derrer said.