U of Minnesota Lab Sees Deluge of Tests for Avian Flu

U of Minnesota Lab Sees Deluge of Tests for Avian Flu

A University of Minnesota lab is getting a flood of samples from turkeys to test for a form of bird flu that's deadly to poultry, amid an outbreak in the state.

Technicians at the university's Veterinary Diagnostics Lab have worked double shifts and weekends in the past four weeks. They test about 100 samples a day for the H5N2 strain of avian influenza that has hit at least nine turkey farms in Minnesota.

At eight of those farms, roughly 373,000 turkeys have died from the disease itself or been killed to prevent the disease from spreading. Minnesota Public Radio News reports animal health officials don't know exactly how the turkeys are getting sick.

Officials say the public health risk is low and that there's no danger to the food supply. No human infections with the H5N2 virus have been reported in the U.S.

Rob Porter, veterinary pathologist at the university lab, said one sample from turkeys that tests positive for the flu strain can lead to the deaths of many of the birds. Porter is charged with calling farmers when the flu strain shows up in a sample, and he said he expects more calls in coming days.

One call last week was particularly emotional.

"He was essentially crying all the time I was telling him," Porter told KARE-TV. "He knows he's going to lose those birds, but he knows he's likely going to lose the birds in the adjacent barns. They are immediately devastated."

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