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More than 5 million birds dead from bird flu outbreak

By Don Davis / Forum News Service

- Minnesota's poultry death toll went beyond 5 million birds Monday when state officials announced 80 farms in 21 counties have been hit by the H5N2 avian influenza.


The number of bird deaths, mostly turkeys, topped 5.3 million, with some flocks not yet counted. The figure includes those who have died from the flu and those that are being euthanized to prevent spread of the virus.

Monday's report showed Renville and Nicollet counties reported their first flu deaths, with 1.1 million chickens in one Nicollet flock. It also showed Kandiyohi County continued to have by far the most flocks affected, 29, more than twice the number of flocks infected in Stearns County.

All affected farms are under quarantine. Birds on 71 farms have been euthanized.

Gov. Mark Dayton told reporters Monday that he wants the state to provide low-interest loans to Minnesota farmers whose flocks became infected with avian influenza. He suggests loans of up to $100,000, while others want $200,000.

"I think it is something we should do and I strongly support it," Dayton said.

Dayton already has signed the first step in the state's flu-fighting funding into law. On Friday, he signed a bill giving nearly $900,000 to state agencies to help pay for their flu-related expenses this year.

The state Executive Council has established a 30-day state of emergency over the turkey and chicken flu outbreak, allowing a variety of types of state government help.

Rural Republican legislators plan to provide free turkey burgers on the Capitol lawn Tuesday morning. Chips and lemonade will complete the menu, giving Capitol area workers a chance to support the state's turkey industry, which produces 46 million birds a year.

Health officials say that poultry and eggs are safe to eat and there is no threat to public health.

The state has about 450 turkey farmers.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.