Minnesota officials prepare for avian influenza's migration to Minnesota

Veterinarians say it could be in the region at any time

One way avian influenza is spread is by the migration of wild birds.
WDAY-TV file photo

MOORHEAD — Avian influenza is making its presence know again in the United States, and as migratory birds migrate back to Minnesota, they could bring the disease with them.

Avian influenza has popped up in Indiana, Virginia, and Kentucky recently, nearly a month earlier than 2015's outbreak.

With 40 million birds being raised in Minnesota every year, the state is preparing to handle outbreaks.

"Our poultry producers need to be prepared for it to potentially make its way up here at any time," said Dr. Shauna Voss, executive director for the Minnesota State Board of Animal Health.

Animal health boards and agriculture departments are warning Minnesotans of a strain similar to 2015's situation that hurt 110 farms. Minnesota is the number one turkey producer in the country.


Veterinarians say symptoms include an 80% drop in water consumption and breathing issues.

If a veterinarian says a turkey isn't thirsty, it's a sign to test for the illness. And if the bird tests positive, swift action will be taken.

"We try to put them down as quickly as possible," Voss said.

"It's unfortunate, but it's it's more humane to do it immediately than to let it take its natural course because that's what's going to happen anyway," said Scott Christensen, CEO for Northern Pride Incorporated.

Not only will they surely die from this certain strain, avian influenza is highly contagious in birds. If one bird is infected on a turkey farm, farmers have to euthanize every bird on their farm, sometimes 10s of thousands of them, then disinfect the entire property.

"The principle is you keep the dirty side out, and the clean side in," Christensen said.

"That farm gets quarantined, and we established kind of a containment bio-security so that we're making sure we're not tracking the virus off of the farm," Voss said.

That means limiting visitors and outside vehicles on farms that may unknowingly be transporting the disease on tires.


"Hopefully, everybody does a nice job with their barns and we can work through it again this year," Christensen said.

Doctors say people can catch avian influenza, although it is rare and happens when people are close to infected birds.

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