LINCOLN – Nebraska became the third state to declare a state of emergency in response to the spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza.

Gov. Pete Ricketts signed the emergency declaration May 13. The declaration ensures the availability of resources for the state agencies working to prevent the virus from spreading.

“The Nebraska Department of Agriculture is coordinating with several state agencies for a thorough, expeditious response,” Ricketts said. “While not a human health threat, the discovery of avian influenza is a serious situation for our poultry sector, and I want to provide responders with access to all appropriate tools to address it.”

State agencies involved include the Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA); Nebraska Emergency Management Agency; Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality; and the Nebraska Department of Roads and Nebraska State Patrol.

“We have an NDA team in northeast Nebraska and already are receiving great support from federal, state and local partners,” Greg Ibach, NDA director, said in a statement. “This declaration gives us additional tools to effectively deal with this disease. We have a poultry sector valued at $1.1 billion, so obviously the impacts of avian influenza will be far-reaching.”

The NDA said H5N2 spread to a commercial egg farm where agriculture officials culled 1.7 million birds. The finding is the first confirmed case of H5N2 in the state.

More than 33.5 million birds have been affected by the outbreak since Dec. 19, 2014, according to US Department of Agriculture data. The H5N2 virus was confirmed in Yankton and Hutchinson Counties in South Dakota. More than 140,000 birds were affected.