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Avian flu confirmed in Meeker and Mower counties in Minnesota

Highly pathogenic avian influenza has been confirm in poultry flocks in Meeker and Mower counties in Minnesota.

This 2011 photo shows turkeys in a barn in west central Minnesota.
This 2011 photo shows turkeys in a barn in west central Minnesota. Two poultry flocks — one in Meeker County and one in Meeker County — have been confirmed as infective with Highly pathogenic avian influenza. (Tribune file photo)
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ST. PAUL — The highly pathogenic avian influenza, also known as bird flu, has been confirmed in poultry flocks in Meeker and Mower counties, the state Board of Animal Health announced Saturday.

The samples from two flocks were tested on Friday at Minnesota-based testing sites and then confirmed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa.

The agency said the Meeker County flock is a commercial turkey flock of nearly 300,000 turkeys reported with mortality and signs of depression. Samples were collected from the flock, which tested positive at the Minnesota Poultry Testing Laboratory in Willmar.

The Mower County backyard mixed flock of 17 chickens, ducks and geese reported increased mortality. Samples were collected and submitted to the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in St. Paul.

Meeker County is located in west central Minnesota and Mower County is located in southern Minnesota, on the border with northeast Iowa.

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Both poultry sites are now quarantined and depopulation of birds on the premises has started. Poultry are depopulated to prevent the spread of the disease and poultry from the infected flock at the sites will not enter the food system.

Poultry is safe to eat, and proper handling and cooking of poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165 ˚F is always advised. The Centers for Disease Control also recently announced this strain of avian influenza is a low risk to the public.

“These are the first cases of HPAI in the state of Minnesota since 2015,” said Dr. Dale Lauer, Poultry Program Director for the Board, according to the 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 farms that raise turkeys or chickens have been on high alert as avian flu outbreaks were reported this year in the United States, including Iowa, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

A commercial flock of 2.75 million egg-laying chickens in Wisconsin were culled to prevent the spread of avian flu after birds on the farm tested positive in mid-March, according to Reuters.

The disease is already widespread in poultry in Europe and affecting Africa, Asia and Canada.

In 2015, more than 9 million birds in Minnesota were either killed by the virus or euthanized to slow its spread. Experts believe the avian flu is spread by migrating waterfowl in the spring.

“The rapid response and testing surrounding the infected sites is the result of years of preparation with our local, state, federal and industry partners,” said State Veterinarian, Dr. Beth Thompson in the news release.

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If anyone — commercial poultry farmers or private flock owners — have a flock exhibiting any clinical signs of influenza, such as a drop in water consumption or increased mortality, or you believe they might have been exposed to birds with the disease, immediately call your veterinarian.

If you are a veterinarian and receive reports of clinical signs of avian influenza, call the Minnesota Poultry Testing Laboratory at 320-231-5170. If it is after hours or on the weekend, call the Minnesota Duty Officer at 1-800-422-0798.

Subsequent detections of HPAI in Minnesota will be posted on the Board’s website. www.mn.gov/bah/hpai . The Board is the official source of information for Minnesota’s response to HPAI.

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