‘Turkey Flu’ deaths rise, raises question of avian vaccinations

Having killed 15,000 turkeys, action needs to be taken now, or this problem will persist.

Jared Rogers-Martin

Visions of the coming spring are slowly waking the hibernating residents of the Twin Cities. Soon we can safely venture outside and stretch our limbs. If the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Seward Co-op have any say in the matter, we can also aim our 12-gauge shotguns in anticipation of the April 15 turkey hunting season opener. The DNR and the Seward co-op joined forces to offer  outdoorsman classes that teach people about the sustainable benefits of hunting your own food, specifically turkey.

However, these noble ambitions were shot in the back by Minnesota’s commercial turkey farms this week. A recent outbreak of the virus strain H2N5 — the avian flu — fatally killed 15,000 turkeys in a Pope County turkey farm. While this ominous wave of the avian flu is contained in only a few barns in Pope County, dozens of countries have ceased importing from Minnesota turkey farms, which happen to lead the nation in turkey production.

Mass-produced turkeys locked in cages rarely meet the ones that roam the Minnesota prairie, but the H2N5 virus threatens both birds.

H2N5 spreads from bird to bird with fatal devastation but loses its virulence when traveling from birds to humans. People do not transmit the virus among each other.

It is impossible to understand the gobbles of the wild turkeys, so we can only hope that their lamenting squawks plead for vaccines against this tragic virus. Then these virus-free turkeys can continue roaming the Minnesota wilderness and potentially end up on the dinner tables of green-minded Twin-Cities hunters as a sustainable substitute for ground-beef burgers.