UPDATE 1-Minnesota bird flu cases rise as U.S. investigators arrive

Tue Apr 7, 2015 5:39pm EDT
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(Adds details on USDA team arriving in Minnesota, Canadian case)

By Tom Polansek

CHICAGO, April 7 (Reuters) - A lethal strain of bird flu has infected an eighth turkey flock in Minnesota, the nation's top turkey producer, in just over a month, officials said on Tuesday, a day after a team of epidemiologists arrived to investigate how the disease is spreading.

Minnesota has detected five cases of the H5N2 flu, which can kill nearly an entire flock of poultry within 48 hours, in commercial turkey flocks since Thursday alone.

Commercial poultry operations and backyard flocks in states ranging from Arkansas to Washington also have been infected with the deadly strain since the beginning of the year, triggering overseas buyers to limit imports of U.S. poultry from companies like Tyson Foods Inc and Pilgrim's Pride Corp.

On Tuesday, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said Japan and Taiwan imposed trade restrictions on poultry from Ontario after bird flu was confirmed in the province.

The latest U.S. infection of the H5N2 flu was the second case in two days to be found in Kandiyohi County, Minnesota, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said. The county, located west of Minneapolis, is the state's top turkey-producing county.

On Monday, a team of USDA epidemiologists arrived in Minnesota to investigate how the virus is making its way into turkey flocks, said Erica Gunderson, spokeswoman for the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. State officials asked the U.S. government to send the team because they needed help responding to the increasing number of infections, she added.

"Basically, we just needed more people," she said.   Continued...