For the first time in three months, bird flu has been detected on a Minnesota poultry farm.
A Meeker County turkey operation had to cull its flock of nearly 129,000 birds after the highly pathogenic bird flu virus was confirmed on Tuesday, according to the state Board of Animal Health.
On Wednesday, a second confirmed outbreak in the west-central county was reported. That turkey operation has more than 46,000 birds.
The virus has claimed more than 3 million birds in Minnesota, the nation's leading turkey producer, and was last seen in a commercial flock in May.
Bird flu does not pose a risk to the food system or consumers who properly cook poultry, officials say. One mild human case was reported amid 40 million affected birds in 39 states this year. That case involved an individual from Colorado who worked closely with birds at a poultry operation.
However, the disease spreads quickly inside flocks and is easily transmitted by wild birds, especially waterfowl, carrying it from farm to farm. Once the virus is confirmed, commercial and backyard flocks need to be depopulated — industry parlance for killed — to prevent further spread.
A Meeker County landowner told the Star Tribune he found several dead swans on his property last week and had them tested for bird flu. Initial tests came back positive, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Bird flu was also confirmed in more than a dozen pelicans on a Hennepin County lake this week, the DNR said. Nationwide, nearly 100 different wild bird species have had confirmed cases.
The viral spread slowed significantly after peaking in April. Nationally, just three other commercial operations reported outbreaks in August. Regulators and industry advocates have cautioned that the fall migration or change in weather could facilitate the virus's return.
"While the timing of this detection is a bit sooner than we anticipated, we have been preparing for a resurgence of the avian influenza we dealt with this spring," said Dr. Shauna Voss, senior veterinarian at the Board of Animal Health.
Iowa, home to several large egg-producing operations, was hardest hit by the outbreak this spring and lost 13.3 million birds.
As a result, egg prices jumped to their highest levels since 2015 — the last and still deadliest nationwide bird flu outbreak.
In July, eggs were selling for $2.93 per dozen on average, compared with $1.64 in July 2021, according to federal data.
Turkey prices have also risen, though less drastically. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported last week that frozen turkeys were averaging $1.60 a pound, compared with $1.35 per pound a year ago.
Those with backyard flocks should check their biosecurity measures and immediately contact a veterinarian if bird flu is suspected. Those who spot five or more dead wild birds in one area should report the finding to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources at 888-646-6367.