Facing 4 more H5N2 outbreaks, Iowa declares emergency

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad declared a statewide emergency over H5N2 avian influenza today as the state reported probable outbreaks on four more farms, while Minnesota officials said two more farms have probably been hit by the virus.

The latest Iowa outbreaks push the state's total to 21, at a cost of about 16 million layer chickens, in addition to many thousands of turkeys, Iowa officials said. Minnesota has now had 72 outbreaks, nearly all on turkey farms, with 3.9 million birds lost.

Another big layer farm hit

The new Iowa incidents involve turkey farms in Sac, Pocahontas, and Cherokee counties and a layer farm in Madison County, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) said. Sac County has had one previous outbreak, but the other three counties have not.

The Madison County farm has an estimated 1 million layers, while bird count information for the three turkey farms was still pending, the IDALS said.

In all four cases, initial testing indicated an H5 virus, and further testing to confirm the full subtype is being done by the US Department of Agriculture.

Meanwhile in Minnesota, the Department of Public Safety (DPS) reported presumptive positive findings on two turkey farms, one in Kandiyohi County and one in Meeker County. Flock size information was not yet available.

The Kandiyohi outbreak is the county's 26th, while the Meeker incident is the 8th one there, the statement said. Kandiyohi is the state's top turkey producing county.

With 72 outbreaks in 19 counties, the toll of birds lost in Minnesota has reached about 3.97 million, which does not include farms where flock sizes are still being determined, according to the DPS.

Iowa emergency declaration

Branstad's proclamation today declares a disaster emergency for the entire state, which activates the state's emergency response plan and local response plans in affected counties. The aim is to authorize the use of all state resources to help monitor, contain, and eliminate the virus.

The declaration specifically authorizes state and local officials to remove or dispose of live and dead animals that pose a threat to public health and to enforce transportation restrictions in quarantine zones, among other things. The declaration continues in effect until May 31, unless Branstad cancels or extends it.

At a press conference today, Branstad said his declaration activates the state's emergency operations center, which will work to coordinate the activities of the many state agencies involved in the response.

"This avian influenza is an emergency that we need to take very seriously, and we need to do everything we can to minimize losses," Branstad said.

In response to questions, he further commented, "Not in the years I've been involved in state government have we had a disaster situation affecting poultry and turkeys like this. This is a magnitude much bigger than we've dealt with in modern times."

Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey talked about the need for everyone to take careful biosecurity precautions. He said the state's response includes mapping routes for poultry trucks to keep them from coming too close to commercial poultry farms along the way.

See also:

Iowa Governor's Office press release

May 1 Iowa press release about new outbreaks

May 1 Iowa emergency declaration

May 1 Minnesota DPS update


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