Fall brings renewed concerns of another bird flu outbreak in Minnesota

It's been 132 days since the bird flu was last detected in Minnesota. However, with the changing seasons, agricultural leaders are staying vigilant – knowing fall brings its own risks.

A few factors make this a vulnerable time. For one, it is now cooler — good conditions for the highly pathogenic avian influenza. It is also the time of year that birds migrate south, meaning Minnesota will have a lot of birds passing through the state following what is known as the Mississippi Flyway.

“Get into fall, cool, cold, birds are now migrating again. Deposit some of the virus in our state and then we have another possibility for this introduction,” Dr. Dale Lauer, a veterinarian and assistant director of the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, told Fox 9. “Waterfowl, ducks, and geese are the natural reservoir for these influenza viruses.”

At the Minnesota Poultry Testing Lab, they're keeping close tabs on birds, through surveillance and testing, to catch bird flu early if it shows up. And last month, the U.S.D.A. issued a Fall Preparedness and Response Plan, and hired extra veterinarians. Meanwhile poultry farmers are limiting access to their barns, changing boots after each barn entry, and taking other bio-security measures — all in an effort to avoid last Spring’s outbreak.

“In 2015, when this came about, and we had this unusual mortality, or dead birds, we probably were prepared for a flock, or two or three,” Dr. Lauer said.

Officials were admittedly overwhelmed by the 101 detections earlier this year that resulted in nearly nine million birds affected.     

Currently, state officials remain hopeful that if another outbreak occurs, they will be able to handle it. They will also follow weather; a cold fall could keep birds moving, and give them less time to infect Minnesota poultry.

“I think we're in a much better position. We've all been through this once so now we know. We're just better prepared,” Dr. Lauer told Fox 9.

Dr. Lauer stresses that there will still be plenty of turkeys for Thanksgiving.