The Minnesota Board of Animal Health on Thursday identified H5N2 low pathogenic avian influenza in a Stearns County turkey flock
The board, in a press release, said this is not the same virus that caused the 2015 avian influenza outbreak, and this strain does not pose a risk to public health or food safety.
The virus was detected during a routine test, according to Dale Lauer, director of the Minnesota Poultry Testing Laboratory and an assistant director with the board. All poultry flocks are tested before they are moved to market as part of a program to detect any evidence of avian influenza.
“We test all of our poultry flocks before they go to market and before processing, so this is part of a routine surveillance that we do year-round,” Lauer said.
The flock of 13-week-old hens has been quarantined and will be tested and monitored until the board determines the flock is virus-negative, according to the release.
“We quarantine the flock, and none of those birds move off the farm,” Lauer said. “We allow the birds to recover. Like when people get the flu, we tell them to stay at home, take some medicine and just lay low. That’s what we do with these flocks as well.”
The impacted turkeys will be allowed to move to market with approval from the board once they have recovered and test virus-negative for the disease, the release said.
“We will continue to monitor this particular flock in Stearns County and we do that weekly,” Lauer said. “Once the virus stops shedding and the flock is clinically normal, they go to market.”
This is the second case of avian influenza detected this year. A turkey flock in Kandiyohi County was confirmed positive for H5N2 low pathogenic avian influenza in late October.
But this is not the same strain of the virus that impacted more than 9 million birds in Minnesota in the spring of 2015.
Lauer said this year’s strain has North American origins, while the 2015 virus was a Eurasian strain. Testing at the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa confirmed the origins of this year’s strain.
Because the virus is low-pathogenic, it is not killing birds and the board is taking a quarantine approach after detecting the virus instead of destroying flocks.
“That’s an important distinction. This is a different virus than what we had in 2015,” said Steve Olson, executive director of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association and the Chicken and Egg Association of Minnesota. “It’s low-pathogenic, meaning it’s not virulent and it’s not killing birds.”
The discovery of the virus has put producers on “elevated alert,” Olson said in an interview Thursday. Farmers are implementing additional surveillance to detect anymore signs of the virus.
But because of seasonal wild bird migration, producers are always more vigilant against avian influenza this time of year.
“That’s what we do every fall and spring, because the wild birds have been the resivor for this virus and for other diseases,” Olson said. “When those wild birds are moving that’s when we’re on high-alert.”
Lauer said there is no risk to public health or food safety, and that the board will continue to monitor the situation.
“(The public) can go to their local grocery store and be assured that any poultry product, whether it’s eggs, turkey, or chicken, is free of the influenzas virus because we have these programs in place,” Lauer said.
Minnesota is the nation’s largest turkey producer, and Stearns County is the state’s second-largest producer behind Kandiyohi County.
Read or Share this story: https://www.sctimes.com/story/money/2018/11/01/minnesota-board-animal-health-bird-flu-stearns-county-turkey-flock/1846057002/