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Highly Contagious Bird Flu Outbreak Leads to Culling of Nearly 1 Million Chickens in Minnesota

by Anna

A highly contagious bird flu outbreak has prompted officials to cull nearly 1 million chickens on an egg farm in Minnesota. The U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed the presence of the virus on the farm in Wright County, Minnesota, as well as in smaller flocks in South Dakota and Iowa. In line with standard containment measures, the entire flock on the affected farm will be culled to prevent the virus from spreading to other farms.

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Apart from the Minnesota case, the USDA reported that around 26,800 turkeys will be culled on a farm in McPherson County, South Dakota, and nearly 17,000 birds will be slaughtered on two farms in Iowa’s Clay County.

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The egg and poultry industry has been grappling with a bird flu outbreak since the previous year. In 2022, the virus led to the culling of almost 58 million birds, predominantly chickens and turkeys. This mass culling significantly contributed to higher egg and turkey prices. Notably, the Minnesota farm represents the first egg-laying operation where bird flu has been detected in the current year.

In 2023, the overall toll has been significantly lower than the previous year due to a decrease in cases found in wild birds and increased efforts by farmers to prevent contact between their birds and migratory ducks and geese. Even after the culling of 940,000 chickens on the Minnesota farm, the total number of birds culled this year will be approximately 3.4 million.

Minnesota has already lost over 5.5 million birds since the outbreak began. Iowa, which houses numerous large-scale egg farms, has been the hardest hit, with over 16 million birds culled, including a case where 5 million egg-laying chickens had to be culled. It’s important to note that egg farms, such as the one in Minnesota, typically have a higher bird population compared to turkey and chicken operations.

Multiple cases have been reported in the past month, primarily at turkey farms in Minnesota, South Dakota, and Iowa, as wild birds migrate south for the winter. The virus can be found on any farm because it spreads easily, primarily through the droppings of wild birds or direct contact with them.

Egg and poultry farmers have implemented various preventive measures, including requiring their workers to change clothes and sanitize their boots before entering barns, limiting the sharing of tools between barns, and securing their facilities to prevent wildlife from entering.

Authorities emphasize that bird flu does not pose a threat to food safety because all birds on an affected farm are culled before they reach the food supply. Properly cooking poultry and eggs at 165 degrees Fahrenheit (73.89 degrees Celsius) will eliminate any viruses. Human infections are rare and typically occur only in individuals with prolonged exposure to sick birds.

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