Walz, lawmakers discuss bird flu outbreak and ongoing efforts

Gov. Tim Walz participated in a roundtable discussion in Willmar on Tuesday to focus on the ongoing bird flu outbreak.

While the H5N1 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) outbreak hasn’t created any food safety concerns for consumers, it poses a big risk to the state’s poultry industry.

“We’re seeing the outbreak affecting around 2 million birds right now. And the difference is this time, as what we’re hearing from the experts." Gov. Tim Walz said. "The spread is much more through wild birds. And they [experts] describe it as a popcorn type of effect. It will pop up in different parts."

As of Tuesday, the Minnesota Board of Animal Health (BAH) says 1.93 million birds across 17 counties in the state have confirmed H5N1 infections. The first cases were detected in Indiana on Feb. 8, with the first cases in Minnesota confirmed on March 25.

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Minnesota Board of Animal Health Executive Director Dr. Beth Thompson says the birds are making their way through the Midwest but the environment needs to warm up and dry out.

"This virus is carried by wild waterfowl," Dr. Thompson said following the roundtable discussion. "We’ve had some inclement weather. They’re stopping by and they’re leaving behind some of this virus."

Walz, U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, BAH Executive Director Beth Thompson and Minnesota Department of Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen spoke about the outbreak and efforts to control the virus during a press conference following the roundtable.