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Avian flu spreads, now confirmed in 5 Minnesota counties

State officials say cases of H5N1 have now been detected in poultry flocks from operations in Kandiyohi, Lac Qui Parle, Meeker, Mower and Stearns Counties.

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota state agricultural officials say cases of highly contagious bird flu have now been linked to poultry operations in five counties. 

According to the Minnesota Board of Animal Health (MBAH), H5N1 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza is now present at commercial poultry operations in Kandiyohi and Lac Qui Parle Counties. The avian influenza was earlier confirmed in poultry flocks in Meeker, Mower and Stearns Counties. 

All the cases have been tested and confirmed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Iowa.

Two infections were confirmed last Friday, one involving a commercial turkey flock with 289,000 birds in Meeker County. The other is a backyard flock in Mower County that consisted of chickens, ducks and geese, officials say.

Then on Sunday came word that the state confirmed more cases of HPAI in a commercial turkey flock of 24,000 in Stearns County. So far, according to the Board of Animal Health, more than 310,000 birds are impacted.

The Kandiyohi commercial turkey operation involves 40,000 birds on premises, while the one in Lac Qui Parle has 23,000. MBAH says in total, more than 376,000 birds are housed in the operations where positive cases have been confirmed. 

Animal health experts emphasize that the influenza poses a low risk to humans but causes respiratory problems, a reduction in egg production and increased mortality in turkeys, chickens and other forms of poultry. 

“These are the first cases of HPAI in the state of Minnesota since 2015,” Dr. Dale Lauer, Poultry Program Director for the Board, said in a news release. “Poultry producers and backyard flock owners need to be on alert and contact their veterinarian immediately if they see any changes in their flocks. Everyone in poultry facilities needs to follow the site’s biosecurity protocols every time to prevent the spread of disease.”

Minnesota is currently ranked #1 in turkey production in the nation, boasting more than 660 turkey farms that raise about 40 million birds annually. State agricultural and economic officials say turkey production generates $774 million in cash receipts annually, and in 2020 Minnesota exported about 15% of its production, worth approximately $114 million.

"Our best hope is that this will simply fly right over us," University of Minnesota Extension Educator Abby Schuft previously explained to KARE 11. "Especially if the Canadian weather cooperates and those migratory birds move on up and over us and don’t stop and rest."

In 2015, a bird flu outbreak in the United States led to more than 50 million chickens and turkeys being euthanized, mostly in Minnesota and Iowa.

For more on the H5N1 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) outbreaks and how the state of Minnesota is responding, check out a dedicated page on the Minnesota Board of Animal Health website.

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