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6 days without a new MN bird flu case: Is the outbreak winding down?

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New reports of avian influenza on Minnesota poultry farms seemed to be a daily occurrence earlier this spring. So the absence of any such reports for nearly a week is generating hopes that the virus may be loosening its grip on the state.

A spokeswoman for the Minnesota Board of Animal Health tells the Associated Press that after six days without a new case, officials are optimistic the trend will continue.

The board has stopped sending out daily bird flu updates. The AP says the number of federal personnel in Minnesota to deal with the outbreak was up to 139 earlier this spring but is now down to 40.

But economic pain caused by the H5N2 virus continues to spread through the poultry industry.

As Reuters reports, Rembrandt Enterprises announced Thursday it's laying off 39 full-time workers at its Renville egg-producing operation, which has been quarantined because of the bird flu.

The Star Tribune says Rembrandt, one of the country's biggest egg producers, also lost a quarter-million hens at one of its Iowa plants this spring. The newspaper reports Rembrandt Enterprises is owned by Glen Taylor, who also owns the Star Tribune and the Minnesota Timberwolves.

In Minnesota avian influenza has struck 88 poultry farms and claimed nearly 8 million birds, most of them turkeys, state officials say. The cost of the outbreak in the state has been estimated at more than $300 million.

On Thursday, Iowa joined Minnesota in announcing that poultry will not be displayed at county and state fairs this year to help limit the spread of the virus.

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