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Bird Flu Confirmed In 2 Minnesota Flocks; Poultry Owners On High Alert

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - For the first time since a devastating outbreak in 2015, bird flu is in Minnesota.

The Minnesota Board of Animal Health announced two infected flocks. One is a commercial turkey flock in Meeker County with 289,000 birds. The other is a backyard flock in Mower County with chickens, ducks, and geese.

"There's no recovery from highly pathogenic aviation influenza for our poultry," said Beth Thompson, the Minnesota state veterinarian and executive director of the Minnesota Board of Animal Health.

The highly-contagious virus is spread by wild waterfowl and is leaving poultry owners on high alert.

Melanie Moonstone has been taking extra precautions for the last month at her Chisago County nonprofit Rooster Redemption, where she cares for 30 roosters.

"No birds can come outside until this threat is gone. No visitors at our house at all right now and major biosecurity cleaning protocols," she said.

Bird flu is low risk to humans but a high risk to the poultry industry. A 2015 outbreak decimated farms, causing 9 million birds to die and $650 billion in losses.

"Farmers have really worked in the past seven years to increase their biosecurity in the commercial level, and then we have worked in the Department of Agriculture to reach out to the backyard flock folks," Minnesota Commissioner of Agriculture Thom Petersen said.

Petersen said most farmers have recovered financially from the 2015 outbreak, but the mental toll it took still lingers. What has also changed since 2015 is the growing popularity of backyard chickens, especially during the pandemic.

State officials say to report any changes in behavior, respiratory or digestive issues to the board of animal health that way they can track and mitigate the problem before it spreads further.

"With the amount of virus that is currently in the environment around the U.S., we might be seeing more cases in Minnesota," Thompson said.

State officials said the end of bird migration in the next month or so will help stop the spread. The virus also can't survive in the summer heat.

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