Avian flu resurfaces in a Meeker County turkey flock

Bird Flu
A flock of young turkeys stand in an Iowa barn in 2015, a year when avian flu ravaged the Midwest poultry industry. Officials on Wednesday confirmed the disease resurfaced recently in a commercial turkey flock in west-central Minnesota.
Charlie Neibergall | AP

Updated: 5:06 p.m. | Published: 9:06 a.m.

The Minnesota Board of Animal Health has confirmed a new case of highly pathogenic avian influenza in Meeker County in west-central Minnesota, the first detected in the state since May.

Health officials say a commercial turkey flock saw bird deaths rise last weekend. Testing confirmed the presence of avian influenza. The Meeker County flock of 128,000 turkeys was quarantined and destroyed to stop the spread of the disease.

A spring outbreak of the contagious virus led to the deaths of almost 3 million birds in more than two dozen Minnesota counties. 

State health officials say they have been preparing for a resurgence of avian flu this fall, although the timing of this case is sooner than they anticipated.

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They urged owners of commercial and backyard poultry flocks to review their biosecurity measures to keep their birds healthy.

Health officials say this strain of avian flu poses a low risk to the public. Poultry and eggs are safe to eat when handled and cooked properly.

Officials for the Minnesota State Fair said they have veterinarians performing regular inspections of the birds who have been exhibiting.

“We continue to closely monitor any updates regarding the impact of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) and will follow the recommendations of state officials,” they said in a statement. “Currently the birds who are exhibiting at the fair are only here through tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon and we will not have any more birds arriving because the last four days we exhibit rabbits.“

Dr. Shauna Voss, a senior veterinarian with the Board of Animal Health, said the risk of avian influenza spreading to more flocks will increase when wild birds begin migrating south.

"I don't think this is the peak," she said. "I think we're just at the start of what we might see. So we'll have to keep a close eye on what's happening with our fall migration this year, and hope that it goes smoothly."

Voss urged poultry producers to review and follow their biosecurity plans to protect their flocks from an outbreak.