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Turkeys return to first farm hit

By Carolyn Lange / West Centrel Tribune

About three months after a Pope County poultry farm was hit with the deadly avian influenza that resulted in the death of 15,000 commercial turkeys, barns there are once again being filled with new birds.

The farm, which was the first in the state to get hit with the virus, is in the process of being restocked.

The event marks a “new phase” of the response to the H5N2 highly pathogenic avian influenza as much of the focus shifts to recovery, according to a news release issued Wednesday by the state Board of Animal Health.

Besides the Pope County farm, one of the first farms in Stearns County affected by the virus is also set to restock in the next few days.

Action to re-populate poultry barns is the first positive sign in a bruising ordeal that began in early March when the first case of H5N2 was confirmed in Pope County.

Since then, more than 9 million birds — commercial turkeys and chickens raised for laying eggs — have either died from the virus or been killed to prevent the spread of the disease.

The bird flu has been confirmed on 108 sites in 23 different counties.

Kandiyohi County has the most confirmed cases, with 40 farms affected.

Before barns can be restocked, affected farms must complete a cleaning and disinfecting process.

After environmental samples are taken and tests come back negative for influenza, then the barns must sit empty for at least 21 days.

Because of the lengthy process of euthanizing and composting the birds, followed by the disinfecting and wait time, officials say it can take up to three to six months before new birds can be introduced into the barns.

The number of new cases has slowed down and there have been no additional cases announced in the state since June 5.

But officials say there’s a possibility the virus could make a comeback this fall.

That threat could mean some turkey farm operators may opt not to immediately repopulate barns.


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Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750