ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota has recorded 13 straight days with no new cases of bird flu as the focus on recovery continues.

Minnesota turkey and chicken producers have lost around 9 million birds on 108 farms to the new H5N2 avian influenza virus since early March. But with the dust settling, the Minnesota Board of Animal Health says it's scaling back its updates to just a weekly email briefing every Thursday unless new flocks test positive.

The board says two Minnesota turkey farms have been restocked so far and several others are set to restock next week.

Poultry farmers who have suffered losses are now eligible for interest-free disaster loans. The Minnesota Rural Finance Authority has been given $10 million to help producers replace their flocks, make building improvements and cover lost revenues.

In Iowa, Governor Terry Branstad says more than 1,500 workers will likely lose their jobs as a result of the bird flu outbreak and he is asking President Barack Obama to declare a major disaster for four of the hardest hit counties.

The presidential disaster declaration would draw federal help in coordinating recovery efforts.

In his letter to the president Thursday, Branstad says 438 people have sought unemployment benefits from Buena Vista, Sioux, Webster and Wright counties. More are expected to lose their jobs by August.

Branstad says Iowa's egg industry expects losses in excess of $1 billion from lost production. Turkeys and chickens lost from the bird flu are valued at more than $83 million.

He says the outbreak is of such severity that federal assistance is necessary.


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