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Bird flu has Minnesota turkey industry on 'pins and needles'

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America's biggest turkey-producing state has a lot to lose if avian influenza sends more income flying away from Minnesota poultry farms.

That's why growers are tightening procedures to limit the spread of the H5N2 strain of the virus. On some farms the tires of vehicles are now cleaned with disinfectant both before and after visits to turkey barns, the Associated Press reports.

That comes on top of requirements that the people entering those barns wear protective clothing and in some cases take showers on the way in or out, the AP says.

The stepped-up biosecurity comes after last week's confirmation of the second and third outbreaks at Minnesota turkey farms this month.

The flu decimated flocks at the affected turkey farms and surviving birds were destroyed to keep the virus from spreading.

Steve Olson, who directs the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association tells the Faribault Daily News the outbreaks have now claimed 145,000 birds.

MPR News shows the locations of the three affected farms and offers more background on the avian flu.

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As MPR notes, it's possible for humans who come in contact with infected turkeys or their droppings to contract bird flu but there have been no reports of that in the current outbreak, which now includes farms in Missouri, Kansas, and Arkansas as well as a handful of western states.

A U of M expert agrees with the Turkey Growers Association in telling MPR the virus does not threaten food safety.

What is threatened is an industry that KSTP says generated $800 million in Minnesota last year.

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More than 40 countries have banned imports of Minnesota turkeys since avian flu was confirmed on a Pope County farm in early March.

The U of M's Carol Cardona tells the AP it's not clear how the virus reached the Minnesota farms.

But the university's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy reported last week that testing by the DNR ruled out wild waterfowl as the source of the first outbreak.

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