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HPAI Spreading to Cattle in More States

NPR’s Joe Hernandez reported over the weekend that “livestock at multiple dairy farms across the U.S. have tested positive for bird flu — also known as highly pathogenic avian influenza, or HPAI — in an outbreak that’s likely spread to at least five states.”

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service confirmed Friday that cows in Texas, Kansas and Michigan had been sickened by the virus, and there were presumptive positive test results for additional herds in New Mexico and Idaho,” Hernandez reported.

“This follows reports on March 25 of highly pathogenic avian influenza in two dairy herds in Texas and two herds in Kansas, USDA stated,” according to reporting from Progressive Farmer’s Chris Clayton. “State officials in Michigan and Idaho each stated that the affected dairies in their states had received the dairy cows from farms in Texas. USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) confirmed HPAI in a Michigan dairy herd that had recently received cows from an affected farm in Texas, USDA reported.”

“That could change the dynamics of the outbreak, indicating cow-to-cow transmission could be possible,” Clayton reported.

Little Impact So Far To Consumers

Hernandez wrote that “the country’s commercial dairy supply is safe and a milk recall is unnecessary, the USDA says. That’s because dairies are required to divert or destroy any milk from impacted livestock, and only milk from healthy cows can be processed for human consumption. Additionally, pasteurization — which is required for milk entering interstate commerce — kills bacteria and viruses, including influenza.”

Axios’ Lauren Floyd reported that “the agency also said milk loss from sick cows is ‘too limited to have a major impact on supply.’ That means ‘there should be no impact on the price of milk or other dairy products,’ the FDA said.”

Clayton reported that “federal officials added, ‘initial testing has not found changes to the virus that would make it more transmissible to humans. While cases among humans in direct contact with infected animals are possible, this indicates that the current risk to the public remains low.'”

Michigan and Idaho Cases

Clayton reported that “Tim Boring, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, stated the infected dairy herd there was in Montcalm County — near central Michigan. Boring said the infected cattle were not symptomatic and did not appear ill when they arrived in Michigan from Texas.”

“The Idaho Department of Agriculture reported cases of HPAI had been found at a dairy cattle operation in Cassia County,” Clayton wrote. “‘The affected facility recently imported cattle from another state that had previously identified cases of HPAI in cattle,’ Idaho officials said. They added, ‘It is suggested the virus may be transmitted from cow-to-cow, in addition to previous reports indicating cattle were acquiring the virus from invested birds.’

“Idaho officials stated that there had been a quarantine placed on the dairy farm involved, meaning no livestock were permitted to enter or exit the farm,” Clayton reported. “The infected cattle were also being quarantined from other cattle on the farm.”

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).

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