Avian flu confirmed in commercial Minn. poultry flock

The first of a new strain of avian influenza was confirmed in a commercial poultry flock in Pope County, Minnesota by the United States Department of Agriculture on Thursday.

Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger said the risk to the public is very low and there are no food safety concerns at this time. Possible infection is limited to the handful of people who had direct contact with the birds. Health officials would not confirm the exact location of the barn, but did say it originally had about 15,000 turkeys, and now there are less than 100 remaining.

Elevated mortality was noticed on Feb. 26 when about 70 birds had died and they notified health officials on Feb. 27 when they began to lose hundreds of birds. Health officials said they do not believe the flu has spread beyond the barn and there are no other commercial turkeys or poultry in the area.

"The Minnesota Board of Animal Health, as the lead animal regulatory agency in the state, is working with the affected producer to depopulate the flock. The board is also working with the poultry industry on a surveillance program for the disease. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture is monitoring this situation and is providing support to the Minnesota Board of Animal Health and the turkey industry. While the human health risk is very low, the Minnesota Department of Health is also providing support," the Minnesota Board of Animal Health said in a news release.

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