An egg-laying operation in southern Minnesota with 1.1 million hens has been hit by the bird flu, the largest single incident in the state since the lethal virus surfaced two months ago. The big hen flock in Nicollet County is one of eight more Minnesota farms with presumptive positive tests for the H5N2 virus, bringing the total to 80, the Minnesota Board of Animal Health announced Monday. The Nicollet County farm — one of the state’s largest — is the third Minnesota egg operation stung by flu. Animal health regulators, citing state law, don’t release the names of stricken farms.

The bird toll in Minnesota is now at least 5.34 million, including 1.57 million chickens. Meanwhile, a total of over 18 million birds — egg-laying chickens mostly, but turkeys, too — have been struck by the flu in Iowa. Another 1.8 million chickens and turkeys have been afflicted in Wisconsin. Turkey flocks have borne the brunt of the flu in Minnesota, with about 8 percent of the state’s annual turkey production wiped out so far. Minnesota is the nation’s largest producer of turkeys, usually churning out about 46 million birds. MORE