State health officials reported this week that H5N2 avian influenza has been discovered in Pope County, Minnesota, after 15,000 turkeys in a commercial turkey barn died.

Health officials said yesterday that the risk to the general public from the virus was “very low”  as no human infections from this AI strain have been detected anywhere.  Nevertheless, the four workers who worked at the Pope County farm were being monitored.

The Pope County farm’s owners noticed elevated mortality in their flock on February 26, when they lost an initial 70 birds. The following day, they lost hundreds and contacted state officials. A U.S. Department of Agriculture lab confirmed the virus to state officials Wednesday night.

Health officials said there were four barns on the property — two for raising turkeys and two for laying eggs — and only one of the poultry raising barns experienced the severe “death loss.” Officials quarantined the farm and said the remaining turkeys would be culled to prevent the disease’s spread.

“We’re optimistic about containing an outbreak because there are no other commercial operations in that area,” said state Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson. “If we can get through the next 21 days (the disease’s incubation period) without finding anything, we should be in good shape.”

The disease originates from wild waterfowl — geese, ducks and shorebirds — and is endemic in that population. Infected flocks that originated in Eurasia eventually traveled to North America in late 2014 via migratory pathways, including the Pacific Flyway. Once there, the Asian strains mixed with North American avian influenza viruses, creating the new strain. The strain has been confirmed in backyard and wild birds in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Thursday’s announcement marks the first time the strain has been detected in the Mississippi Flyway.

According to the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association, Minnesota is the top producer and processor of turkeys in the country, raising 46 million birds annually, worth around $750 million.