ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Top state officials say there’s a good chance Minnesota will see another bird flu outbreak.
But this time, they say the state is better prepared to handle it.
Some 70 million turkeys and chickens died or had to be destroyed this year because of the avian flu.
And two state House committees on Tuesday heard heartbreaking stories from producers.
Some said their flocks died excruciating deaths.
There was a mix of sorrow and anger at the Capitol. Sorrow at what happened, and anger at a state that some said was clumsy and inept.
The experts still haven’t figured out exactly what caused Minnesota’s outbreak.
Renville County farmer Barb Frank told lawmakers she’s still living the nightmare.
She said contract workers hired by the state botched the euthanasia of her 415,000 chicks so badly it reminded her of a Nazi concentration camp.
“The destruction of our flocks was beyond what your imaginations can imagine,” she said.
Top state lawmakers are viewing what went right and what went wrong with Minnesota’s avian flu response.
Some 110 farm sites in 23 counties were contaminated.
So far, 92 have been disinfected, and 72 are back in business.
Robert Orsten and his brother run five turkey farms. They lost thousands of birds, but were able to dispose of their flocks quickly and receive compensation.
“Everyone pulled together and did the best we could with what we knew at the time,” Orsten said.
To this day, Frank says she has not received “one dime” of financial help promised by the state — and her cleanup bill tops $266,000.
She compared the loss to a death in the family.
“This keeps on going and going,” she said. “It doesn’t end, and I am fighting for everything I have.”
Minnesota and many other states have been planning for an avian flu outbreak, but few expected it to spread so quickly and with such killer force.
The state had to ramp up very quickly to fight it, and it is much better prepared for another outbreak now than it was just a few months ago.
As far as the flu returning, there is great concern that the avian flu virus is carried by waterfowl, who will soon begin the migration south.
Dr. Bill Hartmann of the Minnesota Board of Animal Health said there is concern avian flu may flare up again this fall, but there are greater fears it will return again next spring.