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Illness Impacting Texas Cattle Confirmed as Bird Flu

AgWeb’s Tyne Morgan reported Monday that “a mystery illness that’s impacted dairy herds in the Texas Panhandle now has a diagnosis: Influenza A. USDA says genetic sequencing revealed it’s the same strain of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) that’s been in the U.S. for two years.”

“APHIS says the ‘National Veterinary Services Laboratories’ detected Influenza ‘A’ in samples from several impacted herds in Texas and Kansas,” Morgan reported. “The virus is carried by wild waterfowl, which experts think is how the illness is spreading. Even with the diagnosis, USDA is still not recommending movement restrictions of animals.”

The Texas Department of Agriculture said in a press release on Monday that “to date, three dairies in Texas and one in Kansas have tested positive for HPAI. The Texas Department of Agriculture is vigilantly monitoring this outbreak.'”

Progressive Farmer’s Chris Clayton reported Monday that “officials did not state how many cattle were infected, but USDA stated about 10% of each of the dairy farms were infected ‘with little to no associated mortality reported among the animals.”

“Texas has about 645,000 dairy cows, while New Mexico has 243,000 dairy cows and Kansas has 172,000 dairy cows,” Clayton wrote. “USDA stated that initial testing by National Veterinary Services Laboratories has not found changes to the HPAI virus that would make it more transmissible to humans, which would indicate that the current risk to the public remains low.”

No Current Threat to Humans

“Commissioner Miller wants to assure consumers that rigorous safety measures and pasteurization protocols ensure that dairy products remain unaffected by HPAI,” the Texas Department of Agriculture said. “The Texas dairy industry maintains strict standards to ensure the safety of every product. ‘There is no threat to the public and there will be no supply shortages,’ assured Commissioner Miller. ‘No contaminated milk is known to have entered the food chain; it has all been dumped. In the rare event that some affected milk enters the food chain, the pasteurization process will kill the virus.’”

The North American Meat Institute also wrote that “properly prepared beef is safe to eat and is not a food safety risk to humans.”

“’Unlike affected poultry, I foresee there will be no need to depopulate dairy herds,’ Miller said,” according to the Texas Department of Agriculture. “’Cattle are expected to fully recover. The Texas Department of Agriculture is committed to providing unwavering support to our dairy industry.’”

Morgan reported that “officials are strongly advising dairy producers to use all standard biosecurity measures. They note it’s important for producers to clean and disinfect all livestock watering devices and isolate drinking water where it might be contaminated by waterfowl. Farmers are also being asked to notify their herd veterinarian if they suspect any cattle within their herd are displaying symptoms of this condition.”

Earlier reporting from AgWeb noted that dairy herds in New Mexico were also seemingly affected, though, at this time, there are no known reports of confirmed bird flu at those operations.

Ryan Hanrahan is the Farm Policy News editor and social media director for the farmdoc project. He has previously worked in local news, primarily as an agriculture journalist in the American West. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri (B.S. Science & Agricultural Journalism). He can be reached at

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