Minnesota has reported its first cases of the highly pathogenic bird flu this 2023, but officials insist poultry is safe to eat with proper handling and food preparation.

The Minnesota Board of Animal Health said this week that a mixed flock of 114 chickens, ducks and geese tested positive for avian influenza in the procedure conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa, Star Tribune reported.

The backyard flock in Le Sueur County has since been depopulated. The positive cases came four months after another flock in the state tested positive for the same variant of bird flu.

Authorities said they anticipated the return of the flu virus typically spread by migratory birds. They also maintained that the H5N1 virus is a low risk for humans and does not threaten the safety of poultry consumption.

"We were fortunate to get a reprieve from the virus during the past few months. We've been anticipating the return of the virus and are recalling our partner resources back to the fight," Dr. Shauna Voss, a senior poultry veterinarian at Minnesota's Board of Animal Health, said.

Public health officials added that poultry and eggs are still safe to eat, provided people properly handle, prepare and cook them. However, FOX 9 said residents with backyard flocks should be vigilant and check their birds for the following symptoms:

  • Reduced appetite
  • Decrease in water intake
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Very quiet
  • Extreme depression
  • Decrease in egg production
  • Swelling of the head, eyelids, comb, wattle and hocks
  • Purple discoloration in certain body parts
  • Sudden, unexplained death

Poultry owners are also recommended to follow biosecurity hazards to prevent the spread of the virus. A flock that tests positive for avian influenza should be culled to prevent the further spread of the disease.

The ongoing crisis has been dubbed by experts as the worst bird flu outbreak to hit the U.S. Official data reported in January showed about 58 million birds died due to the virus. The situation was so bad that egg carton prices shot up 137% in a year.

Scientists have since started working on a solution to the wide-scale problem. Part of this is preparing vaccines for poultry against avian influenza. There are also efforts focused on developing human bird flu vaccines to prevent human transmission.

Bird Flu
A Mulard duck is being fed by an employee at a poultry farm in Doazit, Southwestern France, December 17, 2015. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau