Minnesota Legislature Approves $1 Million Avian Flu Emergency Relief | Health, Medicine and Fitness
By STEVE KARNOWSKI – Associated Press
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Legislature rushed in $1 million in emergency funding Thursday to bolster the fight against avian flu, a highly contagious disease that has cost state turkey farmers more than a million birds.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Torrey Westrom of Elbow Lake pointed out ahead of unanimous votes in both chambers that the number of farms and birds in Minnesota affected by the highly pathogenic form of avian influenza had doubled in less than a week.
Minnesota is the top turkey-producing state, with nearly 700 farms raising about 40 million birds a year. According to a Thursday update from the Board of Animal Health, the virus had infected 19 commercial turkey farms and two backyard flocks in 11 Minnesota counties with a total of 1,017,568 birds.
In the United States, the outbreak is the largest since 2015, when producers had to kill more than 50 million birds to prevent the virus from spreading. Cases have been reported in 24 states this year, with Iowa being the hardest hit. The number of chickens and turkeys killed in the past two months has soared to more than 24 million. Zoos across North America move their birds indoors and away from people and wildlife to protect them.
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Rep. John Burkel, a former Badger turkey farmer, shared how his Roseau County farm was hit in 2015. That outbreak required the euthanasia of 9 million birds statewide.
“The virus is different this time, and the need and the urgency are greater,” Burkel said.
Representative Dave Baker, of Willmar, which represents one of the hardest-hit areas in Minnesota, said cold weather and worker shortages are making it harder this time for producers to euthanize infected herds, as the foam machines used to suffocate birds do not. work too.
The bill, which Governor Tim Walz is expected to sign into law soon, aims to buy time by paying an additional $1 million into an emergency account at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to supplement the $400,000 currently available. It will help pay for testing materials, equipment and personnel. Lawmakers are expected to respond to demands for more money later.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say bird flu poses little risk to the general public and that poultry remains safe to eat as long as it is thoroughly cooked.
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