Two more commercial turkey farms in Minnesota have been hit with a deadly bird flu, state animal health officials announced Monday.
That brings the total to seven turkey farms in the state that have tested positive for H5N2 avian influenza (HPAI), which is highly lethal to birds, but poses little risk to humans, officials note.
The USDA confirmed the presence of the virus at two commercial farms in Kandiyohi and Stearns counties Monday. This is the first confirmed case in Kandiyhoi County, while it's the third farm to be infected with the virus in Stearns County.
Both farms are located in the Mississippi flyway, where this strain of the virus was first detected at a Pope County farm in early March. Other areas infected with the virus include Lac Qui Parle and Nobles counties.
The total number of infected turkeys has topped 340,000 – about one-third of the birds tested positive for the virus, while the remaining two-thirds were euthanized to help prevent the spread of the virus.
The farms have also been placed under quarantine by the state Animal Board of Health, and officials will monitor other farms within a 10-kilometer zone around the infected farms.
Health officials told MPR News they aren't sure what is leading to this avian flu outbreak, but note it may be transmitted through migrating ducks – the virus can travel through wild birds without them appearing sick.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is looking into this theory and testing waterfowl near infected farms, MPR adds.
Minnesota produces about 46 million turkeys annually, making it the largest turkey producing state in the nation, Minnesota Turkey says.
Although the number of infected birds is just a small fraction of the state's production, farmers may soon feel the effects. If turkeys die from the virus, the farmer absorbs all the losses, Agriculture.com says.