Strain of bird flu found in Minn. turkey flock

Published 7:55 am Friday, March 6, 2015

MINNEAPOLIS — A strain of bird flu that’s deadly to poultry has been found in a Minnesota commercial turkey flock but the risk to humans is low, state and federal officials announced Thursday.

It’s the same highly pathogenic H5N2 strain of avian influenza that’s been confirmed in backyard and wild birds in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, but it’s the first appearance of the strain in the Mississippi flyway, said Dr. Bill Hartmann, Minnesota’s state veterinarian.

The virus devastated a flock of 15,000 turkeys in western Minnesota’s Pope County. Fewer than 100 were still alive by Thursday, Hartmann said. The flock has been quarantined and the remaining birds were being killed. No other commercial flocks are nearby, he said, but “backyard flocks” within a 10-kilometer area were being tested for the disease.

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“We’re encouraged that we’ll be able to prevent the spread of the disease,” Hartmann said. “We should be able to contain this without much difficulty.”

The virus is carried by wild waterfowl that aren’t sickened by it. The incubation period is about 21 days.

“If we can get through the next 21 days without finding anything, we should be in good shape,” Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson said.

Minnesota is the nation’s top turkey producer, with industry groups claiming to produce some 46 million turkeys each year worth around $750 million. Frederickson said about 8 percent of that production, or $92 million worth, was exported in 2013.