A new study just released from the University of Minnesota says farmers tilling fields near turkey barns may have fueled the spread of last spring’s avian influenza outbreak.

According to the study, soil in the tilled fields may have been contaminated with the droppings of migrating birds believed to be a source of the highly pathogenic H5N2 avian influenza.

Because the virus can survive cold temperatures in soil, the tilling may have created “airborne particles that could carry the virus,” the university’s Center for Animal Health and Food Safety said in the report.

The study’s authors urged caution when reading the findings, saying they should be viewed as “hypothesis-generating rather than confirmatory,” and that more research was needed.

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