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Commercial turkeys in Stearns, backyard birds in Morrison County latest in Minnesota infected with avian flu

Two new avian flu infections reported Friday by the Minnesota Board of Animal Health bring Minnesota to seven total sites. Flocks in Stearns and Morrison counties were confirmed infected Thursday.

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A turkey flock is shown in a stock file photo. The total number of poultry sites infected with avian influenza in Minnesota is up to seven, according to an update Friday from the Board of Animal Health.
Source / Adobe Stock
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WILLMAR — Two additional poultry flocks are confirmed infected with avian influenza in Minnesota, according to the state Board of Animal Health.

A backyard flock of 115 unspecified birds in Stearns County, the second diagnosis in that county, and a commercial flock of 52,000 turkeys in Morrison County were confirmed infected with H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza on Thursday,

The new infections were reported Friday on the Board of Animal Health web page on the flu response at bah.state.mn.us/hpai, which is updated at noon each weekday. The new confirmations bring the total sites in the state to seven and the number of birds to 378,998.

The first cases of H5N1 in Minnesota were confirmed March 25, according to the Board of Animal Health.

The earlier confirmations were in commercial turkey flocks in Kandiyohi, Lac qui Parle, Meeker and Stearns counties and a backyard flock in Mower County.

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Highly pathogenic avian influenza is extremely contagious and fatal to domestic poultry, according to Abby Schuft, an Extension educator with the University of Minnesota. She is based in Willmar and works with poultry farmers across the state.

She told Forum News Service that consumers, now more than ever, should support poultry industries.

“Our (poultry) products are still safe to eat and consume, and none of these affected birds are entering our food chain,” she said. “Like any other food product, they're highly tested before they even enter the food system, so the poultry products that you like to enjoy and consume on a regular basis are still going to be safe to eat.”

According to the Board of Animal Health, the U.S. Department of Agriculture works with owners of infected flocks to develop a plan, which includes appraisal and indemnity agreements for depopulation of poultry that remain on the site.

All carcasses on the affected farms are composted inside of the barns, a process that takes about one month to complete.

A response zone of 6.2 miles is created around any infected site in order to control movement and establish an area for testing and surveillance protocols to be carried out.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service confirmed highly pathogenic avian influenza in wild waterfowl in the Atlantic flyways in January 2022. On Feb. 8, the inspection service confirmed avian influenza in a commercial turkey flock in Indiana, and the disease has since been confirmed in multiple states, including Iowa, South Dakota and North Dakota.

Susan Lunneborg is the news editor of the West Central Tribune in Willmar, Minnesota. A journalist for more than 25 years, she has worked as a reporter and editor at newspapers in the Dakotas and Minnesota.
Lunneborg can be reached at: slunneborg@wctib.com or 320-214-4343.
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