Minnesota notched six straight days without a new case of bird flu on Thursday, and though state officials aren’t ready to say the outbreak is over, they’re beginning to stand down.
The first case of H5N2 in the Midwest was confirmed in early March at a Minnesota turkey farm, and the virus then spread to 88 farms in the country’s top turkey producing state, affecting nearly 8 million birds, mostly turkeys. But new cases have fallen off sharply and the focus is turning toward getting poultry farms back into production.
“I wouldn’t go out on a limb to say that we’re done for the season, but I would say it’s been six days now since we’ve had a presumptive case and we are very optimistic that this trend will continue,” Minnesota Board of Animal Health spokeswoman Bethany Hahn said. By Steve Karnowski, Star Tribune, 05/21/15
The University of Minnesota Extension Service says the bird flu outbreaks since March 4 have cost the state’s turkey and poultry industries nearly $310 million. The U of M used a computer model to determine that for every $1 million in direct potential sales revenue lost to bird flu, the indirect costs are $1.8 million, including $450,000 in lost wages in the state’s 80 nonmetro counties.
Direct losses for turkey and egg–laying operations are at $113 million.
“These projections represent where we stand as of May 11,” says Brigid Tuck, an extension senior analyst in Mankato, Minn. “If the virus affects more farms, as we have seen since May 11, the impact levels will rise. If barns stay empty for another cycle of poultry production, these numbers could potentially double.” By Mikkel Pates Grand Forks Herald, 05/25/15
The executive director of the Iowa Poultry Association says it’s unclear whether vaccination is the answer to prevent another outbreak of bird flu. “There’s a debate, a very active debate about that currently and the USDA is taking that up and will be determining whether that would be a viable option.” That’s Randy Olson, the Iowa Poultry Association’s executive director. He took the job this spring — just a few weeks before the avian flu was discovered in Iowa.
Some are certainly concerned that vaccinating birds would create a situation where we always have a certain amount of avian influenza,” Olson says. “Others would say that it’s the only way to stop the spread and so we’re thankful the USDA is devoting the resources they are to understand this and to try to make a decision.”
Olson expects that USDA decision about vaccinating birds in poultry operations sometime this summer. Meanwhile, he says federal leaders are kicking around the idea of federal poultry insurance — something similar to Federal Crop Insurance. KIWA Radio, Iowa, 05/25/15
Some of the Iowa poultry producers who’ve had to kill their birds because their flocks have been hit by avian flu say they can’t get consistent answers from state and federal officials as to when they can put birds back in their barns. The poultry producers say they’re also getting conflicting information about disposal of the dead birds. Rod Parker’s flock of turkeys in Cherokee County was hit in early May.
“Basically, they were healthy up until that day. We couldn’t tell anything was going on until that morning where we noticed some increased mortality in one of our barns,” Parker says. Parker’s facilities were within a quarantine zone at the time, as bird flu had struck another facility in the area. Parker, who serves on the Iowa Turkey Federation Board, attended a town hall meeting about bird flu in Sioux Center this weekend. All of the turkeys in his five buildings have been killed and are composting inside the barns, under about 20 inches of ground up corn stalks. Parker says federal officials tell him it could be at least six months before he can “repopulate” his facilities with new birds. Radio Iowa, 05/25/15