Indiana Trains Prisoners To Combat Avian Flu

Jun 2, 2015

Indiana is training 300 prisoners how to euthanize and properly dispose of poultry infected by viruses.

It’s one of several precautions the state is taking to prevent a new strain of the avian flu from taking hold in the state.

Indiana has been lucky so far. Two strains of avian flu have killed about 10 percent of the poultry industry’s laying flock nationally.

Indiana had only one case last month in a backyard flock.

But Indiana State Poultry Association Vice President Paul Brennan says the virus could hit Indiana hard any day.

Barbara Harrington /


Needle exchanges are controversial. Critics say handing out clean needles enables drug use, while others point to evidence, showing that exchanges reduce the spread of disease.

For the past several weeks, Scott County, Indiana has been operating a needle exchange, to combat an outbreak of HIV linked to injection drug abuse. It’s the first of its kind in Indiana, and it recently received approval from the state to run for a year. But getting the community to accept the idea was a process -- and in some ways, one that’s ongoing.

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Indiana State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams testified Thursday before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations in Washington D.C about the HIV outbreak in southern Indiana.

Adams says the number of positive cases is up to 160.

He suggests a three-part system for dealing with the drug abuse that led to the epidemic.

Steven Depolo /

Health workers continue to fight an HIV outbreak in the Southeastern part of the state.

As of Monday, 158 people had tested positive for the virus, mostly due to injection drug abuse.

To help stem the spread of the virus, health workers in Scott County have been operating a temporary needle exchange, where drug users can trade in dirty needles for clean ones.

The county is one step closer to making that exchange more permanent.

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The Marion County Health Department has asked Tippecanoe County officials to partner with them on a new initiative designed to disseminate information about public health events more quickly.

Tippecanoe County Health Administrator Craig Rich says hospitals currently report concerns to the state Department of Health, which eventually disseminates the information to county health departments.

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The number of new HIV infections in southeastern Indiana now sits at 153.

While the number of cases continues to rise, incidence of infection has slowed down, and officials hope to see it plateau soon.

A local community outreach center in Scott County has become a one-stop shop for testing, HIV treatment coordination and, insurance enrollment. Since the outbreak has been linked to injection drug use, referrals for addiction treatment are also available.

Barbara Harrington / Indiana Public Broadcasting

The streets of Austin are lined with campaign signs focusing on the future of this struggling small town.

They’re on every corner, in every yard, even greeting drivers on the outskirts of town.

But, it’s the handwritten sign posted on Tammy Breeding’s lawn that sends perhaps the most powerful message of all.

"I had to make a statement. I want to take back my community, my neighborhood," she says.

The sign reads: "No loitering, prostituting in front of or around these premises. Violators will be prosecuted."

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Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller is urging the legislature to pass a bill that would allow permanent needle exchanges in some Indiana counties.

Zoeller heads the state’s Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force, and he cited concerns over the ongoing HIV crisis in Scott County. So far, more than 130 people have tested positive for HIV since just December. A majority of the cases have been linked to injection drug use.

Sara Westermark /

After eight years of declining revenue, the Clinton County Health Department may have to raise service fees to make up for its losses.

The Clinton County Council recently increased the department’s loan cap to $65,000 -- $15,000 more than what it was allowed to borrow at the beginning of this year.

Health Department Administrator John Brannan says the department is asking for more grants from the state before taking money from the community.

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The state has started its needle exchange program aimed at combating an outbreak of HIV in Southern Indiana. Officials say the program started Saturday morning and is open only to Scott County residents through a community outreach center in the town of Austin.

At first, participants will be given enough needles to last them a week. Those syringes are then supposed to be returned and exchanged for new, clean ones. Public health officials say rampant reuse of needles by IV drug addicts had led to the HIV infection rate increase.