Bird flu found in Minnesota turkey flock

Published 9:22 pm Tuesday, October 23, 2018

MINNEAPOLIS — A mild form of bird flu detected in one flock of turkeys in a west-central Minnesota county is not the same virus that caused a devastating outbreak in 2015 and poses no public health or food safety risk, officials said Tuesday.

The World Organization for Animal Health said routine surveillance testing confirmed on Monday the presence of a low-pathogenic N5N2 virus in a flock of 40,000 turkeys in Kandiyohi County, Minnesota’s top turkey producing county. The virus originated in wild birds. The state Board of Animal Health said only one of four barns on the farm, housing 10,000, 13-week-old toms, was affected.

The flock has been quarantined but has shown no signs of illness, the agencies said. The farm will be allowed to market the birds normally in a few weeks once the flock tests negative, said Dr. Shauna Voss, senior veterinarian at the board’s poultry testing laboratory in Willmar.

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The board has stepped up surveillance at nearby poultry farms as a precaution.

The virus is different from the highly pathogenic H5N2 virus that caused a massive outbreak in U.S. turkeys and chickens in 2015, which resulted in the deaths of more than 50 million birds. Iowa and Minnesota were by far the hardest hit states. Losses across the U.S. economy were estimated at $3.3 billion.

Voss said this was the first detection of any avian influenza virus in commercial poultry in Minnesota since that outbreak, although there was a low-pathogenic case in western Wisconsin last year.

The 2015 outbreak led to tighter biosecurity measures on poultry farms to protect them from outside sources of infection, such as wild birds, rodents and farm workers who might track in viruses on their footwear or clothing. Producers now conduct enhanced surveillance during the spring and fall migrations, Voss said.

The new detection shows that those security measures have paid off, she said.