Iowa governor declares state of emergency over avian flu

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Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad announced on Friday a state of emergency due to the outbreak of avian flu in his state. (Tweet this)

Millions of birds have been infected by the highly contagious disease.

"While the avian influenza outbreak does not pose a risk to humans, we are taking the matter very seriously and believe declaring a state of emergency is the best way to make all resources available," said Branstad in a press release.

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"Even before the virus began in Iowa, our office was monitoring the outbreak in other states. We'll continue our work—as we've been doing since the first outbreak in Buena Vista County—in hopes of stopping the virus' aggressive spread throughout Iowa."

Iowa, the top egg-producing state in the United States, is the third state to declare a state of emergency because of the viral outbreak, which either has led or will lead to the extermination of up to 21 million chickens and turkeys nationwide.

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Minnesota and Wisconsin declared states of emergency in April.

At the time this story was published, 21 sites in 10 counties across the state have reported cases of the disease. The counties include: Buena Vista, Cherokee, Clay, Kossuth, Madison, O'Brien, Osceola, Pocahontas, Sac and Sioux.

In a news conference Friday, Governor Branstad said he will enhance the state's agencies' abilities to use resources to fight the outbreak and activate the state's response center.

The state of emergency is effective immediately now until the end of the month, depending on developments, Branstad said.

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The governor's plan to tackle the outbreak includes containing the spread through "depopulation, disinfections, and disposal of livestock carcasses." The plan will also allow for a temporary suspension of regulations pertaining to commercial vehicle drivers hauling the infected poultry carcasses.

So far, an estimated 16 million egg-laying chickens in Iowa are in infected or presumed infected farm facilities - meaning that at least one-quarter of the state's flock will have to be killed and disposed of, state officials said.

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—Reuters contributed to this report.