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A photo of a turkey.

Keeping turkeys and other animals healthy

Edited from an original story by Joel Hoekstra in Pictures of Health, winter 2003.

From eNews, November 13, 2003

Minnesota's turkey industry is among the largest in the United States, producing more than 44 million birds annually. And for nearly a century, the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Lab has helped turkey growers pinpoint and test for diseases. Located on the U's Twin Cities campus in St. Paul, the 65-person lab is the state's primary animal health laboratory, handling more than 56,000 cases and 1 million tests annually. Aside from animal breeders, farmers, and pet owners, its clients include the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and local zoos--Minnesota, Lake Superior, and Como Park. "Animals are submitted to us for diagnosis," says James Collins, lab director. "We make discoveries... and we develop products that are beneficial to the industry and can even play a role in public health." One of the lab's most significant contributions to the turkey industry in recent years is a vaccine for turkey respiratory disease. The lab created the vaccine with a Kansas pharmaceutical company to combat the avian pneumovirus, which decimated flocks in 1997 and continues to cause millions in lost sales. According to Heidi Kassenborg, supervisor of the Minnesota Department of Health's Bioterrorism, Epidemiology, and Surveillance Unit, the lab's expertise in animal disease could prove increasingly important as the state works to protect humans from anthrax and other diseases transmitted by animals.

"Diseases that happen in animals today can happen in humans tomorrow, and vice versa," Kassenborg says. To learn more about services at the U's Veterinary Diagnostic Lab, which is part of the College of Veterinary Medicine, see Editor's note: For tips on how to buy and cook turkey, see the University of Minnesota Extension Service Web site.

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