Deadly avian influenza virus detected in state, surrounding counties

Rock County Star Herald
Are Rock County’s backyard poultry flocks at risk?


While the recent avian influenza outbreak poses a low risk to human health and is not a food safety risk, Gov. Mark Dayton declared a state of emergency to stop the spread of the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).

The declaration by the state’s leader couldn’t have come quickly enough.

As of May 1, nearly 4 million birds have been euthanized in Minnesota involving 67 farms in 19 different counties. That number is expected to grow.

While Rock County is not home to large commercial chicken or turkey flocks, it is slowly being surrounded by reports of the virus.

Our eastern neighbor, Nobles County, had 21,000 turkeys destroyed due to an outbreak of the avian flu.

Now the Minnesota Department of Animal Health (DAH) suspects a backyard flock of 150 birds in Pipestone County, our northern neighbor, has the virus. Reports of H5N2 in Iowa and South Dakota, our southern and western neighbors, also continue to increase.

All suspected farms remain under quarantine until state and federal officials determine how the virus is spread.

Pipestone County reported the first suspected non-commercial flock with signs of the infestation. The owner noticed unusual death losses and other signs of illness in his/her birds.

We in Rock County need to take notice and take steps to protect our backyard flocks.

Here are some recommendations by the DAH to assist in stopping the spread of the deadly virus.

•Eliminate the opportunity for domestic birds to interact with wild birds. Wild waterfowl are suspected carriers of the disease. The best way to avoid diseases that wildlife carry is to keep domestic animals separated from the wild.

•If you have birds at home, do not visit other farms, homes or facilities that also have birds. If you must visit, shower and change into clean clothes and shoes before and after the visit so you do not transport bird droppings.

•Before you drive down the road, consider where you're going; be sure your vehicle is clean and free of dirt, manure and other organic material that might be transported.

•Be on the alert. Early establishment of a 12-mile control and surveillance zone by state officials can help prevent the spread of the disease.

The University of Minnesota’s poultry website contains more information for protecting both urban and backyard flocks. The link can be found at www.extension.umn.ed/agriculture/poultry/avian-influenza.

A hotline number 888-702-9963 is available for general questions about avian influenza and biosecurity measures that can be taken to protect birds.

For sudden onset of sickness or high mortality in any kind or type of poultry flock (commercial or backyard), call a special joint tactical team at 320-214-6700 ext. 3804.

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