Nearly 1 million chickens will be slaughtered at a Minnesota egg farm to help limit the spread of highly contagious bird flu after it was confirmed to have emerged there, officials said Monday.
The US Department of Agriculture announced that the virus was found on a farm in Wright County, Minnesota, as well as in three smaller flocks in South Dakota and Iowa. When highly pathogenic avian influenza virus is detected on a farm, the entire herd is killed to prevent its spread to other farms.
In addition to the Minnesota case, the USDA said about 26,800 turkeys will be killed at a farm in McPherson County, South Dakota, and nearly 17,000 birds will be slaughtered at two farms in Clay County, Iowa.
The egg and poultry industry has been dealing with an outbreak of bird flu since last year. In 2022, nearly 58 million birds — mostly chickens and turkeys — were slaughtered to deal with the virus, contributing to skyrocketing egg and turkey prices. The Minnesota farm is the first egg-laying operation where bird flu was detected this year.
The total toll was much lower in 2023 than in 2022 as the number of cases found in wild birds fell and farmers redoubled their efforts to prevent any contact between their birds and ducks and geese migrating through their farms. Even after slaughtering 940,000 chickens on a Minnesota farm, there will only be about 3.4 million birds killed this year.
Minnesota has now lost more than 5.5 million birds since the outbreak began. Iowa, home to many huge egg farms, was hardest hit with more than 16 million birds slaughtered, including one case where 5 million egg-laying hens had to be killed. Egg farms like those in Minnesota tend to have the largest number of birds on any single farm. Turkey and chicken operations typically involve fewer birds.
A number of cases have been reported over the past month, mostly on turkey farms in Minnesota, South Dakota and Iowa, where wild birds have begun migrating south for the winter. But the virus can be found on any farm because it spreads easily, primarily through the droppings of wild birds or direct contact with them.
Egg and poultry farmers are taking steps such as requiring their workers to change clothes and sanitize their shoes before entering their barns, limiting the sharing of tools between barns, and closing their facilities to prevent wildlife from getting inside.
Officials stress that bird flu does not pose a threat to food safety because all birds on the farm where the disease is present are slaughtered before they reach the food supply, and properly cooking poultry and eggs to 165 degrees Fahrenheit (73.89 degrees Celsius) will kill the birds. . Kill any viruses. Infections in humans are rare and usually only occur in people with prolonged exposure to sick birds.