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Concerns over avian influenza in Minnesota has prompted the state to ban poultry sales and exhibitions for the next month. 

The Minnesota Board of Animal Health on Thursday announced a 31-day statewide ban in effect from Friday, April 1, through Sunday, May 1. 

"The ban includes all poultry community sales, swaps, fairs, exhibitions and other events where poultry and susceptible birds are brought together," the board of animal health says. 

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) poses a "high risk" to poultry but a low risk to the public, and there is no food safety concern for people eating poultry. 

The current HPAI outbreak in Minnesota was first detected on March 25. It has now been confirmed at five sites (four commercial turkey producers and one backyard producer) in five Minnesota counties, totaling 348,883 animals. 

These are the first HPAI cases in Minnesota since 2015. That year, officials were concerned about the health of poultry, leading to the cancellation of all poultry shows at the 2015 Minnesota State Fair

“Viruses like HPAI need hosts to continue to spread,” said state veterinarian Dr. Beth Thompson. “It’s our job to stop the spread of disease. Unfortunately, in this situation, we feel one of the best things we can do for the health of all birds in Minnesota is to take a pause on poultry events through May 1.”

The board of animal health did say direct sales of baby poultry in stores or via the mail by authorized sellers are still allowed. 

Meanwhile, Gov. Tim Walz on Thursday signed an executive order waiving some trucking regulations to help fight the spread of HPAI and mitigate the risk to the state's poultry industry. The order is in effect until April 30.

The order, which waives strict enforcement of certain weight restriction regulations and hours of service requirements, will help poultry producers with depopulation efforts and transport uninfected animals to processing facilities, a news release said. It also will help prevent the spread of HPAI between flocks by reducing the number of trips trucks need to make to farm sites. 

Minnesota is No. 1 in the United States in turkey production, with more than 660 turkey farms in the state that raise about 40 million birds annually. 

These efforts to control the spread of HPAI come the same week Walz called on the USDA to support disease control and containment efforts in Minnesota. 

The USDA emergency team, which arrived on Wednesday and will be in Minnesota for at least three weeks, will work with state animal health officials and poultry producers to respond to incidents of HPAI in flocks. 

The latest on HPAI in Minnesota can be found here

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