Since December, there have been highly pathogenic avian influenza confirmations in migratory wild birds, backyard flocks, and commercial poultry in several states across the U.S.
Minnesota is the largest turkey producer in the nation and has had the most outbreaks so far in the Midwest. Its state veterinarian, Dr. Bill Hartmann, says the bird flu is particularly lethal to turkeys. Death losses become dramatic after a few days. So far, commercial areas found with the disease have been quarantined with flocks depopulated.
But Hartmann says the most recent flock found this week with the virus in central Minnesota poses a new problem because it’s near a dense commercial poultry area.
He says they’ve never experienced the highly infectious nature of this strain, “We’ve had low-pathogenic avian influenza, but never highly-pathogenic avian influenza, and they believe that what happened is this virus has been circulating for quite some time in Asia, and that the flyways that intersect between Asia and the United States; the virus finally got into some ducks or geese in our flyway on the West Coast, and then they mixed with the Mississippi flyway birds, and that’s how it got here.”
With bird flu creeping closer to Iowa, USDA has released recommended biosecurity practices for smaller flocks. They suggest keeping flocks isolated from outside influences like wild birds or foreign tools and suggest keeping equipment and cages clean.
The Minnesota Board of Animal Health has also begun an epidemiological investigation into the third outbreak in the state. There have been no cases of human illness as a result of H5N2. They say, the risk to the public is very low and there is no food safety concern.