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HPAI outbreak 'very unusual' situation

H5N2 avian flu outbreak called "very unusual" situation that industry may have to live with for 3-5 years.

The highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is a "very unusual" situation that the poultry industries "may have to live with for several years," according to Dr. John Clifford, the U.S. Department of Agriculture chief veterinary officer. "It will reoccur in the fall likely across all four flyways across the U.S."

Clifford participated in a hearing on HPAI organized by the Minnesota House committees on agriculture finance and agriculture policy.

Clifford noted that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has secured $15 million in federal emergency funding to assist Minnesota cope with HPAI, including indemnity funding to help offset affected producers from financial losses.

While the situation has been labeled an epidemic, Dr. Carol Cardona, the Pomeroy endowed chair of avian health at the University of Minnesota, explained that the current HPAI outbreak is "not an epidemic because there is no farm to farm or barn to barn spread."

"This is not a disease we can live with," Cardona said, noting that it may develop into a fall and spring disease affecting poultry over the next three to five years.

She added that the situation in Minnesota is "unprecedented," not even when turkeys were raised in range-type situations.

While the current viral strain does not show aerosol (i.e., fine droplet spray) transmission, it could be possibly spread via airborne transmission (e.g., feathers and dust), Cardona said.

Minnesota state veterinarian Dr. Bill Hartmann told the hearing that, besides dealing directly with affected farms, the Minnesota Board of Animal Health is working with other producers, hatcheries and poultry-related businesses within the 10-km quarantine control zones around each affected farm to allow routine business activities such as permitting hatcheries to deliver day-old poults to unaffected farms and testing and permitting market-weight turkey flocks to allow them to go to slaughter.

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