No new bird flu cases found in MN

However, scientists expect a potential return of the avian disease this winter.

Eliana Schreiber

Researchers and farmers are monitoring specific regions statewide after a contagious strain of bird flu broke out earlier this year.
 
University of Minnesota and state researchers expect a comeback in the disease — which hasn’t been detected in the state since early June — but are unsure where and when it will return.
 
The disease, called Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, resulted in the death of nearly 9 million poultry birds in Minnesota and affected 22 counties.
 
To protect birds and prevent the disease from spreading, the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, University researchers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have monitored farms in Minnesota.
 
While HPAI hasn’t been reported in Minnesota since June, Carol Cardona, an avian health professor in the College of Veterinary Sciences, said this time of year is when scientists typically expect to see influenza.
 
But scientists have yet to see the disease return.
 
She said poultry farmers have had to watch over their birds more carefully since the outbreak this spring.
 
Producers became more aware of the disease after the outbreak and are taking precautionary measures to ensure it will not resurface, Cardona said.
 
“They’ve done something called biosecurity that tries to change the structure of their farms, in some cases, and the practices on their farms in every case, to make sure that
the birds on farms are safer and more separated from wildlife,” she said.
 
Cardona said the precautionary steps they take for the birds are comparable to those a hospital would take when trying to prevent the spread of a virus or infection.
 
Communication between producers is especially helpful in this process, she said, and poultry farmers have learned they are more successful when working together on this issue. 
 
The USDA reported a total of 105 cases in Minnesota between March 4 and June 5. The  regions with most birds affected were Renville, Kandiyohi and Nicollet counties.
 
Because there were so many cases, Cardona said, the MBAH, which performed tests on birds, has been overwhelmed due to the limited amount of resources.
 
“How can we strategically use the resources that we have, and how can we get more resources to better address the problem?” Cardona said.
 
Had the cases been addressed in a timelier manner, she said, there would have been fewer cases altogether.
 
Wild waterfowl are known carriers of avian flu. This spring, the University’s Raptor Center monitored wild migratory birds for the disease.
 
“We still think the virus is somewhere in some kind of reservoir host,” she said. “It’s out there, and we just don’t know when or where it will come back.”