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“Bird Flu” Confirmed in MN Commercial Turkey Flock

According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), a serious strain of avian influenza, more commonly known as “bird flu,” has been confirmed by in a western Minnesota commercial turkey farm where it has killed 15,000 birds since February 26. 

Out of four barns on the farm, only one has experienced loss and tested positive for avian flu. The farm is being quarantined, and some birds will be euthanized to stop the spread of the virus. This is the only farm in Minnesota confirmed with the flu.

After noticing increased mortality, the turkey breeder sent samples from the replacement flock to the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and the APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa to be tested, which then confirmed the presence of avian influenza. 

“APHIS is partnering closely with the Minnesota Board of Animal Health on a joint incident response,” says an APHIS report. “State officials quarantined the affected premises and the remaining birds on the property will be depopulated to prevent the spread of the disease.”

This “highly pathogenic” H5N2 avian influenza strain has killed wild and backyard birds in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho (part of the Pacific flyway), but this is the first finding in the Mississippi flyway, which includes Minnesota. 

Although APHIS and the Minnesota Board of Animal Health are following all protocol to keep the disease contained, U.S. poultry exports have halted, especially to China, says Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson. 

“The United States has the strongest AI surveillance program in the world, and USDA is working with its partners to actively look for the disease in commercial poultry operations, live bird markets, and in migratory wild bird populations,” says the report. “USDA will be informing OIE (the World Organization for Animal Health) and international trading partners of this finding.”

According to a news report released from the University of Minnesota, in recent months 2.7 million birds have been killed by the disease or destroyed to prevent spreading an outbreak of avian flu in South Korea and Taiwan.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) considers the risk to people as low. Workers handling the birds are the only ones at risk of infection. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is monitoring the four workers who directly came in contact with the birds, and there have been no signs of illness thus far.

The MDH is also working with the other workers and the facility to make sure that proper precautions are being taken as to not spread the AI strain.

However, remember that the proper handling and cooking of poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit kills bacteria and viruses.

Minnesota produces more turkeys than any other state ($750 million a year with $92 million in exports in 2013.)

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