Over 1 million birds affected by latest outbreak

By Robert Williams


Over 1 million birds have been affected by the latest outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in the state as of Thursday, April 7, including Becker County.

The disease is now affecting a total of 21 poultry flocks, tripling the reports of a week ago (7), according to the Minnesota Board of Animal Health.

The Becker County report is the northernmost reach of the spread in the state and has a flock population of 45,000 birds.

Kandiyohi, Morrison and Stearns counties each have reports of four commercial turkey flocks affected by avian flu. Other counties with infections are Dodge, Lac Qui Parle, Meeker, Mower and Waseca.

All but two of the 21 reports are commercial operations consisting of flocks from 20,000 to 240,000 birds. The two backyard producers in Mower and Stearns counties are considerably smaller with a combined bird total of 170.

The first case was confirmed on March 25 and the numbers have grown steadily since, surpassing 1 million birds late this week.

During a HPAI event in Minnesota, a response zone is created around the infected premises in order to control movement and establish an area for testing and surveillance protocols to be carried out.

The United States has the strongest AI surveillance program in the world, and USDA is working with its partners to actively look for the disease in poultry operations, live bird markets, and in migratory wild bird populations. 

Premises infected with HPAI are placed under quarantine, prohibiting the movement of poultry and poultry products on or off the affected site. The USDA works with infected flock owners to develop a flock plan, which includes appraisal and indemnity agreements for depopulation of poultry that remain on the premises. 

After depopulation of the flock, all carcasses on the affected farms are composted inside of the barns, unless another method of disposal is approved by the response team. This process takes approximately one month to complete.

Commercial poultry producers and backyard flock owners are advised to practice strict biosecurity; most importantly, preventing their birds from exposure to wild waterfowl.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, human infections with HPAI bird flu viruses are rare but can occur, usually after close contact with infected birds. No human infections with highly pathogenic avian influenza A viruses have been detected to date in the United States. There have been four human infections with low pathogenic avian influenza A viruses identified in the United States since 2002.

Daily reports on the spread are updated weekdays and can be found at www.bah.state.mn.us/hpai/