The spring waterfowl migration will increase the risk of the virus coming to Minnesota according to Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.
Outbreaks in 2015 devastated more than 100 Minnesota farms and cost the state economy over $500 million.
The World Health Organization is on high alert as the virus has been found in 40 countries around the world since last fall and is spreading quickly.
The H5 virus family that hit Minnesota two years ago is the most widespread now. But Osterholm said there’s also an H7 cluster in China that is particularly worrisome because it has infected hundreds of humans in addition to birds.
“About 30 to 35 percent of the people who are developing this H7N9 infection are dying,” Osterholm said.
But people from the poultry industry in Minnesota are confident that they are better prepared now than two years ago.
Glen Taylor owner of Rembrandt Foods, one of the nation’s largest egg producers, said it’s unclear how the virus made its way into the company’s barns in 2015.
But Taylor assured that Rembrandt Foods has taken steps to keep out any new virus. Supply trucks that may visit other poultry farms are strictly controlled, and employees unload at an entrance gate if possible.
“We’ve got more emergency response equipment in the state to be able to react quicker,” said Steve Olson, who heads turkey and chicken trade groups in Minnesota. “There are processes that have been streamlined. I think that’s going to help the situation overall.”