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Avian influenza strikes Stearns County turkey flock

WILLMAR -- A commercial turkey flock in Stearns County has become the third in the state to be infected by the highly pathogenic avian influenza. The infection was confirmed Saturday, when state officials announced that a commercial flock of appr...

WILLMAR - A commercial turkey flock in Stearns County has become the third in the state to be infected by the highly pathogenic avian influenza.

The infection was confirmed Saturday, when state officials announced that a commercial flock of approximately 40,000 birds had been struck. The disease infected birds in one of four barns on the site. There had been a significant death loss in the infected barn, according to Dr. Bill Hartmann, state veterinarian, Minnesota Board of Health.
“This is obviously a huge concern to the industry,’’ said Dave Frederickson, commissioner, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, who joined Hartmann and Ed Ehlinger, commissioner, Minnesota Department of Health, in speaking to reporters Saturday about the latest infection.
The Stearns County infection is significant because of its occurrence in the state’s second highest poultry producing county. Kandiyohi County is the state’s leading poultry producer and home to Jennie-O Turkey Store.
Minnesota joins Arkansas and Missouri as states in the Mississippi flyway with reported cases.
Minnesota’s first reported avian influenza case in a turkey flock occurred March 5 in Pope County. On Friday, a second case had been confirmed in Lac qui Parle County, where the virus struck birds in one of three barns holding 66,000 birds.
The Stearns County case has occurred in an area with increased turkey production as compared to the two previous outbreaks, and consequently the state will be devoting more resources to it. On Saturday, teams were driving the roadways within a 20-kilometer radius of the site. Their goal was to identify and notify all of the commercial and backyard poultry producers.
The birds on the infected farm will be euthanized and composted. The state quarantines all flocks within a 10-kilometer radius of the site and monitors flocks within a 20-kilometer radius. The quarantined birds are tested.
Dr. Hartmann said the state is continuing its epidemiological investigation to determine why these sites were infected, but as of yet does not know. There is no apparent connection between any of the three Minnesota sites, he said.
Wild waterfowl are known to be a reservoir for influenza.

Related Topics: STEARNS COUNTY
Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoors reporter for the West Central Tribune.
He has been a reporter with the West Central Tribune since 1993.

Cherveny can be reached via email at tcherveny@wctrib.com or by phone at 320-214-4335.
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