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Turning the corner on bird flu? 2 weeks without a new case

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Is avian influenza finally subsiding on Minnesota's poultry farms?

On Thursday, the Associated Press noted Minnesota had recorded its 13th straight day without a new case of bird flu being reported.

That's the first positive news in a while for the state's commercial turkey industry. It's estimated that around 9 million turkeys and chickens have perished since the first case was discovered in March; 108 Minnesota farms have had confirmed cases of the H5N2 avian influenza virus.

Two turkey farms, in Pope and Stearns County, are the first to restock. The Board of Animal Health said several others are expected to restock next week. Farmers who have lost birds are eligible for interest-free disaster loans. The Minnesota Rural Finance Authority has been given $10 million to help producers replace their flocks and cover lost revenues.

The Minnesota Department of Health has completed health checks on 403 workers who had contact with infected flocks and said none of them had the H5N2 virus.

Wildlife testing

Although scientists still don't know what role wildlife may have played in the outbreak, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said it plans to expand its testing of wild ducks and geese to track the virus. The DNR will also sample waterfowl shot by hunters this fall.

MPR News notes more than 3,300 fecal samples from wild birds have been tested so far, but researchers found only one positive case. The Northland News Center reported that it was a cooper's hawk from Yellow Medicine County.

Samples from 84 wild turkeys that were submitted during hunting season all tested negative, the DNR added.

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