New bird flu cases detected as Minnesota, Wisconsin declare states of emergency

By Daniel Enoch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, April 23, 2105 - New cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza have been found in Iowa and Wisconsin, where yesterday officials declared a state of emergency. Minnesota, which has had the highest number of outbreaks in the country, declared a state of emergency today.

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In Wisconsin, state officials said the H5 avian flu was detected in a 90,000 turkey flock in Barron County, the sixth case in the state and the second in Barron County. As in other detections, the affected property has been quarantined and the flock will be depopulated.

The H5 virus was first detected in Wisconsin at a commercial chicken flock in Jefferson County on April 13, which led to the depopulation of more than 180,000 egg-laying chickens.  Since then four additional flocks were detected with the virus in Barron, Juneau, Chippewa counties and another in Jefferson bringing the total of birds affected to about 1.2 million in Wisconsin.

In Iowa, preliminary results of tests on samples taken from turkeys in a commercial flock in Sac County indicated the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPA1), officials said today. This would be the third case in Iowa, should the test results be confirmed by a USDA lab in Ames.

The turkey operation, with 34,000 birds, is within the 10 kilometer monitoring zone surrounding the state's first case, in Buena Vista County. State officials quarantined the farm and said birds on the property will be humanely euthanized to prevent the spread of the disease.

Multiple outbreaks of avian influenza have occurred most recently in Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Arkansas, the Dakotas and Kansas, leading to the depopulation of about 7 million turkeys and chickens, according to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

Thus far, the disease has primarily affected turkey flocks, and most of the more than 60 confirmed outbreaks have been in Minnesota, the nation's top turkey state. Hormel Foods announced that flu-related bird losses will put pressure on their production and profits.

The highly pathogenic H5N2 strain of bird flu has been identified on 46 Minnesota farms in 16 counties and affected more than 2.6 million birds in the state.

State health officials said they were expediting prescriptions for the antiviral drug Tamiflu for farm workers and others who have been in direct contact with infected flocks. No human infections have been reported in this outbreak.

"There's no reason for anybody in the state of Minnesota to be concerned about their own health," Gov. Mark Dayton said at a press conference today after declaring the state of emergency.

Federal and local public health authorities have said the risk of human infection is low.

The state's action to provide antiviral drugs follows recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Minnesota's health department approached 140 farm workers and others who had been in direct contact with infected birds and advised 87 of them to take the Roche antiviral medication as a preventative measure, the department's spokesman Michael Schommer said. Seventy of them took the drug, he said.

Of the 62 people that state health officials have followed up with so far, none have been infected by the virus, Schommer said.

The H5N2 strain of avian influenza was first confirmed in January in the Pacific Northwest and has since spread to the Midwest, and recently to Iowa, the nation's top egg-producing state.

(This story was updated at 9:15 p.m.)

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