Big turkey farm in Min­nesota hit by deadly bird flu: of­fi­cials


A ninth turkey farm in the cen­tral state of Min­nesota has been hit by a form of bird flu that’s deadly to poul­try, this time in a large Jen­nieO-Turkey Store op­er­a­tion that has 310,000 turkeys, fed­eral au­thor­i­ties and com­pany of­fi­cials said Wed­nes­day.

The U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture said tests con­firmed it was the same highly path­o­genic H5N2 strain of avian in­fluenza that in­fected eight other farms in Min­nesota, Amer­ica’s top turkey-pro­duc­ing state. Those farms have lost about 373,000 turkeys to the out­breaks be­tween the dis­ease it­self and birds that were killed to pre­vent the dis­ease from spread­ing.

Min­nesota Board of An­i­mal health spokes­woman Bethany Hahn said the Meeker County op­er­a­tion has 12 barns on the site. Just one barn was in­fected, and she said the USDA is work­ing with the pro­ducer on what to do with the turkeys in the other barns.

Jen­nie-O, a di­vi­sion of Hormel Foods Corp., said on its web­site that it’s the first com­pany-owned fa­cil­ity to test pos­i­tive for the virus. Three pre­vi­ous con­firmed cases con­nected to Jen­nie-O were flocks that were be­ing raised by in­de­pen­dent con­trac­tors. Those were in Kandiy­ohi, Stearns and Lac qui Parle coun­ties.

Of­fi­cials say the risk to the public is low and there’s no dan­ger to the food sup­ply.

But an­other Meeker County turkey pro­ducer, Greg Langmo, of Litch­field, is wor­ried his farm could be next.

“You just won­der if the Grim Reaper is go­ing to knock at your door to­day,” he said. “It’s hor­ri­ble. You have to un­der­stand that peo­ple in this busi­ness make their liveli­hood car­ing for an­i­mals. And we work re­ally hard to make sure they’re prop­erly wa­tered and fed, their bed­ding is right and air is right, ev­ery minute of the day.”

Langmo said pro­duc­ers have al­ready done ev­ery­thing they can think of to keep their turkeys healthy by keep­ing out any un­nec­es­sary peo­ple, equip­ment or wildlife that could carry the virus into their barns. He said they’re de­fer­ring non-emer­gency main­te­nance so they don’t have to let re­pair work­ers in­side. They’re mak­ing sure ro­dent bait sta­tions are in or­der. His em­ploy­ees are also spray­ing dis­in­fec­tant around feed bins, ser­vice en­trances and other ar­eas with foot traf­fic in their barns.

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