Bird Flu Spreads to 16 States

Gov. Dayton Declares State of Emergency in Minn.

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Fears over a large bird flu outbreak are spreading as Minnesota declares a state of emergency Thursday.

Governor Mark Dayton says the H5N2 strain of bird flu has now been identified on nearly 50 Minnesota farms and has killed more than two million birds in the state.

“This is a moving target. The number of farms affected continues to increase. We don’t know what the ceiling is going to be,” said Dayton.

The declaration will allow Minnesota to fast-track prescriptions of the anti-viral drug “tami-flu” for farm workers who have been in direct contact with infected flocks.

“We’ve had ten people who’ve developed some symptoms, but no one has tested positive for avian influenza, the H5N2 strain,” said Kris Ehresmann, with the Minnesota Department of Health.

Despite the precautions being taken, state officials say the risk of human infection is low.

“Once again, there is no connection here to any known human disease,” said Dayton.

In addition to the health concerns, the economic impact could be even greater.

Some international trade partners are now refusing to buy egg and poultry products from states affected by the bird flu.

No state has been harder hit than Iowa where nearly four million hens are being euthanized to prevent the spread of the virus.

“Iowa is the leading egg producing state. About 25 percent of the population in the whole United States is in Iowa,” said Iowa Governor Terry Branstad.

As the number of infected birds grows, some suggest Mother Nature could soon provide relief.

“If you can get a week of sustained 65 degree or higher weather, it usually shuts things down,” said Bill Hartmann, a veterinarian on the Minnesota Board of Animal Health.

Since December, 16 states have reported cases of the bird flu.


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