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Stearns County turkey farm confirmed as third avian flu infection site in Minnesota

The latest report of highly pathogenic avian influenza infection in Minnesota is a flock in Stearns County, a 24,000-bird commercial turkey operation.

A file photo of a commercial turkey flock.
A commercial turkey flock is shown in this undated photo. A third Minnesota flock was confirmed infected with H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza, according to a Sunday, March 27, update from the Board of Animal Health.
Contributed / U.S. Department of Agriculture file photo
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ST. PAUL — Another Minnesota poultry flock, this one in Stearns County, has now been confirmed with H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza, according to the state Board of Animal Health website.

The infected flock is a 24,000-bird commercial turkey operation. The state's web page showed information updated as of Sunday.

That brings the total flocks confirmed with avian flu to three within Minnesota — a Meeker County commercial turkey farm with 289,000 birds and 17 birds of mixed species in a Mower County backyard were announced Saturday.

Jennie-O Turkey Store, based in Willmar, confirmed Sunday that the Meeker County flock is one of the company's turkey farms.

The news release said the company has prepared for the avian flu "situation and took extensive precautions to protect the health of the turkeys in the supply chain."

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Gov. Tim Walz announced Monday, March 28, that a federal emergency response team will arrive Wednesday, March 30, in Minnesota. The team will spend at least three weeks assisting Minnesota producers. The team will work with a Minnesota team based in Kandiyohi County to quarantine the three infected flocks.

The last time a Kandiyohi County poultry flock was confirmed with highly pathogenic avian influenza was in 2015. In 2021, routine testing by the state Board of Animal Health confirmed H5 low pathogenic avian influenza, which is a different virus.

In 2015, more than 9 million birds in Minnesota were either killed by the virus or euthanized to slow its spread. Experts believe the avian flu is spread by migrating waterfowl in the spring.

Poultry remains safe to eat, and proper handling and cooking of poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165F is always advised. The Centers for Disease Control also recently announced this strain of avian influenza is a low risk to the public . No human cases of these avian influenza viruses have been detected in the United States.

Minnesota's turkey industry production generates $774 million in cash receipts annually, and the state exports about 15% of its production, worth approximately $114 million. The state has more than 660 turkey farms that raise about 40 million birds annually.

More on avian flu:
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Kelly Boldan has been editor of West Central Tribune and Wctrib.com in Willmar, Minnesota, since October 2001. He joined Forum Communications Co. in November 1998 as editor of the Bemidji (Minn.) Pioneer.
Boldan can be reached via email: editor@wctrib.com or telephone: 320-214-4331.
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