U.S. Bird Flu Spreads to Egg-Laying Chickens in Minnesota County

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Bird flu has spread to egg-laying hens in Minnesota, the top U.S. turkey producer that’s been battling the disease since early last month.

A flock of 175,000 birds in Clay County was confirmed to have the highly contagious variety of avian influenza, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in a statement Friday. This is the first case in the state for chickens, data from the agency show. The USDA also confirmed additional cases for turkey flocks in Minnesota and one in Wisconsin.

With flocks of more than 7.8 million birds ravaged by the disease this year, U.S. farms are stepping up clean-up efforts and Minnesota’s Governor Mark Dayton declared a state of emergency. At stake is the roughly $44 billion made from poultry and eggs produced in the U.S., the latest government figures show. The outbreak, the worst in three decades, has prompted poultry buyers from Europe to Asia to place restrictions on American shipments.

Avian flu has been found primarily in commercial turkey flocks, particularly in Minnesota, where abundant waterways attract wild geese and ducks, suspected of carrying the disease. Egg-laying hens in neighboring Wisconsin have also been infected. This week, the USDA also reported the disease in millions of egg-producing chickens in Iowa, the nation’s top producer.

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