Bird flu spikes as major outbreak continues, but shouldn’t have big impact on Thanksgiving

Bird flu outbreaks affect more than 330,000 turkeys in Minnesota

Bird flu outbreaks affect more than 330,000 turkeys in Minnesota

A recent spike in avian flu continues a more than a year-long battle against the virus that has affected millions of birds.

Just in the month of October, more than 330,000 birds, across 11 flocks, in seven counties have been impacted by bird flu. It adds to the outbreak that started in 2022.

“From the start of the outbreak, which was March of 2022, was when Minnesota had its first case, we’ve had about 5 million birds that have been affected by the disease,” Dr. Shauna Voss, with the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, said.

Despite all the sick birds, Dr. Voss says the turkey on your dinner table is still safe to eat.

“No infected birds [get] processed and people should have confidence that a turkey, cooked properly, is still safe to eat,” Dr. Voss said.

The animal board keeps a dashboard highlighting this outbreak.

It’s an outbreak that turkey farmers are hoping ends soon… but they are prepared for the long haul.

“I hate to say [it, but] it’s getting to be the typical fall outbreak,” John Zimmerman, of Zimmerman Turkey Farm, said.

His farm sits just southeast of Northfield, somewhat of an ideal location to avoid the virus due to not being close to any major body of water.

“There’s a mental and emotional toll on the growers that have to depopulate the birds, but on an industry as a whole, this won’t affect supplies for Thanksgiving, this won’t affect the price of Turkey much at all,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman’s barns have been spared thus far and he hopes this outbreak ends soon due to the migratory season ending soon — those birds are the main driver of the virus.

From the rocks around his barn to keep virus-carrying critters out to the biosecurity technology, he’s taken steps to ensure he’s ready in case it’s here to stay and adds there are possible advancements down the line that could help too.

“Whether that means we look harder at vaccinations, or possibly some gene editing in the future, or even more stringent biosecurity, we’re going to have to look at different options at how to remain in business and deal with this virus because it’s not going away,” Zimmerman said.