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Federal emergency team to help Minnesota respond to avian flu

The USDA response team will work with the state's Agricultural Incident Management Team to quarantine infected poultry flocks in an attempt to limit spread.

ST PAUL, Minn. — An emergency team with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is coming to Minnesota to help the state respond to confirmed cases of avian flu.

Over the weekend the Minnesota Board of Animal Health confirmed that H5N1 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) was found in five poultry flocks in Mower, Meeker, Stearns, Lac Qui Parle and Kandiyohi counties.

In Meeker County, the virus was detected in a commercial turkey flock of 289,000 animals. In Stearns County, another commercial flock of 24,000 turkeys was infected, while in Mower County, the avian flu was detected in a backyard "mixed species" flock of 17 birds.

Both flocks in Lac Qui Parle and Kandiyohi were commercial turkey flocks of 23,000 and 40,000 birds, respectively.

The USDA emergency response team will aid the state's Agricultural Incident Management Team to help contain infected flocks, respond to infected sites, conduct disease surveillance and coordinate logistics and finances between state and federal agencies, according to Governor Tim Walz's office.

“Armed with years of preparation for this incident, our state’s Agricultural Incident Management Team is working quickly and decisively to respond to the cases of H5N1 in Minnesota,” Walz said in a statement. “Within hours of the first confirmed cases, our Board of Animal Health requested emergency support from the USDA. These federal partners will bring targeted expertise to contain this virus and ensure that our state’s poultry industry remains the strongest in the nation.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), avian flu viruses don't usually infect people, although there have been some rare cases of human infection. The CDC says it's very rare for a person infected with bird flu viruses to spread it to a close contact, but when it has happened the cases only involve spread to a few people.

The state Board of Animal Health says to report any unexplained illness or increase in mortality, decreased egg production, quiet or depressed birds or respiratory or neurologic (twisted necks or quiet) signs of disease to your veterinarian. If you don't have a vet, call the board at 320-231-5170 or contact state and federal field staff.

Minnesota has more than 660 turkey farms and raises about 40 million birds each year, making the state #1 in turkey production in the country.

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

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