A virulent strain of Newcastle disease, a virus killing hundreds of wild birds in Minnesota, poses a threat to Minnesota's poultry flocks, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
The National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin has confirmed the specific strain of Newcastle disease, which is responsible for the deaths of nearly 1,000 gulls and 500 cormorants this summer.
"We have biologists throughout the state going to all of our known rookeries ... checking for any other signs that something's happening," said DNR wildlife veterinarian Erika Butler. "And we're continuing to clean up -- the on-site incineration of carcasses, and removing any sick birds. Euthanizing them so that they aren't still out there spreading the virus."
This particular strain of the virus poses a greater threat to domestic poultry flocks than less deadly forms of the disease, according to Dale Lauer of the Minnesota Animal Health Board.
One step producers can take to protect their flocks is to be carefull who they allow onto their farms.
"That would include vehicles, visitors, vaccination crews, people who directly work with poultry," said Lauer. "Making sure that when they do come on to your premises that they're clean, vehicles are disinfected, that kind of thing."
Lauer says farmers should closely monitor their flocks for the disease, which causes partial or complete paralysis in birds. So far there have not been any reports of Newcastle disease in domestic poultry in the state, he said.
Newcastle disease is not new to Minnesota. The last virulent outbreak of this disease occurred in 2008, when about 2,400 birds died at eight different locations. It rarely infects humans, causing mild pink-eye at worst.
Wisconsin, North Dakota and the Canadian province of Saskatchewan also have suspected Newcastle outbreaks this summer.