Thousands of Minn. turkeys quarantined

Several thousand turkeys at a large poultry producer in central Minnesota's Meeker County have been quarantined after routine testing discovered a strain of avian flu.

The state Board of Animal Health said the birds appear healthy and show no signs of infection. Poultry workers are being monitored for signs of infection, but there have been no reported illnesses.

"It would appear that it's a pretty mild form of the avian influenza virus on this premise," said Dave Lauer, assistant director for the Minnesota Board of Animal Health.

All turkey flocks within three miles will be repeatedly tested for the virus for six weeks, along with any flocks linked to the farm.

"This infection is causing no illness in turkeys, but it should serve as a reminder to all of us involved with animal agriculture," Lauer said. "We need to be vigilant in observing the strictest possible bio-security to protect our animals."

Lauer said that the virus probably entered the plant through contact with a wild bird or water fowl. The testing was completed late yesterday.

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State health officials typically find between 10 and 30 outbreaks of influenza in commercial flocks each year.

Officials have not released the name of the poultry plant. Lauer said that the plant operates on an "all in, all out" model, meaning that all of the turkeys on the plant have been born in the same week. All the turkeys will leave the farm for slaughtering after two months. The plant is then disinfected before a new flock arrives.

Although the current case has caused no illness in Minnesota poultry, the virus, if left unchecked, can change into a form that could be lethal to domestic poultry and chickens.

Minnesota is the nation's top turkey producing state.