Gov. Mark Dayton declared a peacetime state of emergency in response to the avian influenza epidemic afflicting Minnesota turkey farms and poultry farms across the nation.
Dayton said the order will tighten lines of authority in state and local government and allow his office to properly coordinate planning between the Board of Animal Health, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
The National Guard is not being called up, but the Guard is participating in collaborative planning.
Roughly 2.5 million birds have been destroyed in Minnesota so far; the state processed 43 million turkeys last year. Chickens, which don't spread the disease as efficiently, are also affected.
Dave Frederickson, commissioner of the Department of Agriculture, said there is no threat to human health: "The poultry on grocery store shelves is safe and will continue to be safe." He acknowledged, however, he is worried about the industry. He urged farmers to contact the department if they need help and to practice strict bio-security on their farms.
The United States Department of Agriculture currently has 134 workers on the ground in Minnesota, while the state has 86. The USDA will pay for flock indemnification, depopulation, carcass disposal and testing.
A public health official said they are monitoring 140 Minnesotans who work closely with the birds for potential exposure. They have advised 87 to take a preventive medication; 70 have complied. None have tested positive for the H5N2, the scientific name of the bird flu.
Dayton said he has apprised legislative leaders, and that they have pledged support: "Right now everybody is pulling together, and that's how it should be."