The new strain of influenza, H7N8, has not been seen before.
Recently, the Indiana State Board of Animal Health (BOAH) indicated that a highly pathogenic avian influenza hit commercial turkey farms in Dubois County, IN. The new strain of influenza, H7N8, has not been seen before and is said to have originated from North America, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to United States Department of Agriculture, this new strain is particularly concerning because highly pathogenic viruses spread quickly and cause high mortality in domestic poultry. Low pathogenic H7 viruses can mutate into highly pathogenic ones and in a statement, Dr. John Clifford, USDA Chief Veterinarian said, “It appears that there was a low pathogenic virus circulating in the poultry population in this area, and that virus likely mutated into a highly pathogenic virus in one flock.” Signs of viral infection include sudden death without clinical signs; lack of energy or appetite; decreased egg production; soft-shelled or misshapen eggs; swelling or purple discoloration of head, eyelids, comb, hocks; nasal discharge; coughing; sneezing; lack of coordination; and diarrhea.
Since farmers and officials did not want a repeat of the devastating avian influenza that hit the US poultry supply in 2015, which cost an estimated $3.3 billion and resulted in the deaths of almost 50 million animals, they worked diligently to ensure that the animals were depopulated. According to the Indiana BOAH, as of January 20, 2016, all of the turkeys in the ten flocks identified, and more than 156,000 chickens at risk for contracting the virus, had been euthanized. The total number of euthanized birds amounted to a total of more than 400,000 birds.
While no human cases of the virus have been reported, those individuals, working with the birds, will be monitored for any symptoms, such as conjunctivitis and/or upper respiratory symptoms, as the H7 strains of viruses can, in rare cases, spread to humans.