ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota recorded its 13th straight day with no new cases of bird flu on Thursday as the focus on recovery continues.
Minnesota producers have lost around 9 million turkeys and chickens on 108 farms to the H5N2 avian influenza virus since its presence was first confirmed in early March. But with the dust settling, the Minnesota Board of Animal Health said it would scale back its updates to just a weekly email briefing unless new flocks test positive.
Two turkey farms, in Pope and Stearns County, have been restocked so far and several others are set to restock next week, the board statement said.
Poultry farmers who have suffered losses are now eligible for interest-free disaster loans, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture announced this week. The Minnesota Rural Finance Authority has been given $10 million to help producers replace their flocks, make building improvements and cover lost revenues.
The Minnesota Department of Health said it has completed health checks on 403 workers who had contact with all the infected flocks and said no one had the H5N2 virus, though 201 people were advised to take the antiviral drug Tamiflu as a precaution and 139 agreed.
The Department of Natural Resources said it plans to expand surveillance this summer and fall by testing wild ducks and geese that it catches as part of its normal banding operations, as well as sampling waterfowl shot by hunters this fall.
Wild waterfowl serve as reservoirs for avian influenza viruses but generally don’t die from them. What scientists still don’t know is what role wildlife may have played in this outbreak, DNR Wildlife Research Manager Lou Cornicelli said.
The DNR collected more than 3,300 samples from wild birds earlier this year but only one bird tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza, in Yellow Medicine County in April.
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