MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – There is a confirmed outbreak of a deadly bird flu at a second Minnesota turkey farm. Twenty-two thousand turkeys died this week at a commercial farm in Lac qui Parle County. The first case happened two weeks ago in Pope County.

Minnesota is the largest turkey producing state in the county, with 46 million turkeys going into the marketplace from 450 farms each year.

Steve Olson, executive director of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association, says it’s concerning this particular deadly strain of avian flu made it to the state.

“What the concern is when we have a highly pathogenic avian influenza is that it’s going to affect that flock, and that’s the livelihood of our growers, but it’s also the health of that flock,” Olson said.

The bird flu wiped out 22,000 turkeys in a barn in Lac qui Parle County this week. Forty-four thousand more being kept in two other barns were not infected, but will still have to be euthanized as part of the cleaning and disinfecting process. While the grower will be reimbursed by the USDA for the healthy turkeys, Olson estimates the cost could be in the hundreds of thousands.

“They’ve got a lot of money invested in feed and time and building costs, so they’re losing their whole investment in that flock,” Olson said.

He said the warning signs appear quickly and, once they do, there is nothing a grower can do except contain it.

“They’re going to sit around,” Olson said. “They’re not going to get up and move, and they’re not going to eat as much and they will also have neurologic signs.”

Olson calls the cases isolated but said if it becomes widespread, it could have a devastating impact on the state.

“The turkeys that we raise eat a lot of corn and soy beans, so that means we would have less of that consumed in the state, and the value of those corn and soy beans wouldn’t be as high,” Olson said.

A few countries that Minnesota trades with put temporary restrictions on turkeys coming from the state. The USDA and Department of Agriculture are working with them.

Olson said there is no risk to the food supply or to people.

Jennifer Mayerle

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