Gov. Mark Dayton declared a state of emergency in Minnesota in response to the bird flu outbreak, which has claimed the lives of 2.6 million turkeys and has now spread to a chicken farm for the first time in the state.
The Star Tribune reports that the governor's order activates "an emergency operations plan" to provide support to attempts to quell the outbreak, and also says that National Guard personnel can be mobilized if necessary.
It comes after chicken producer J&A Farms, near Detroit Lakes in northwestern Minnesota, became the first chicken farm in the state to confirm an infection of the deadly H5N2 virus, KSTP reports. The farm has 275,000 hens.
Earlier on Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported the bird flu’s presence in 13 additional turkey flocks in Minnesota. That brought the state’s overall total to 44 across 15 counties.
The deadly avian flu has spread to 13 more Minnesota turkey farms, bringing the total number of birds affected to more than 2.5 million, the state Board of Animal Health announced.
The farms with newly confirmed cases of the H5N2 infections are all located in counties where the virus has previously been detected. The turkeys not killed by the disease have been or will be euthanized to help prevent it from spreading.
Since the outbreak of the virus in early March, 7.1 million turkeys and egg-laying chickens have been affected across the Midwest, The Associated Press reports.
Chicken operations in Iowa and Wisconsin have also been hit by the bird flu. There are 16 states now coping with the disease in commercial bird operations.
The outbreak may force the Minnesota State Fair to cancel its poultry exhibit this year, MPR News reports. There are fears bringing so many birds together in one place could further spread the virus.
MPR says State Fair officials are expected to decide by early to mid-summer.
Could it be airborne?
The Minnesota Board of Animal Health has urged heightened biosecurity to help contain the spread of the deadly virus. Among the organization's recommendations: keeping poultry away from wild birds, which are carriers the bird flu.
But now USDA officials are speculating this strain may be spreading through particles in the air, Bloomberg reports.
In a conference call Wednesday, John Clifford, chief veterinary officer for the USDA, said high winds could be moving virus-carrying particles – feathers or dust – into poultry barns, furthering the spread of the virus, Bloomberg notes.
Clifford, who recently visited Minnesota, noted many farms in the state are in close proximity to lakes with large populations of wild birds that could potentially be carrying the avian flu, the publication says.