can cows get bird flu

Sick dairy cows in two states have tested positive for bird flu, federal officials said on March 25.

As of Monday, the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus was detected in unpasteurized, clinical milk samples from sick cattle at two dairy farms in Kansas and one in Texas, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced in a press release. A cow at another dairy in Texas also tested positive.

The USDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state veterinary and public health officials have been investigating an illness affecting mainly older dairy cows in those two states, as well as in New Mexico. Symptoms include decreased milk production and low appetite.

The infections appear to be due to wild birds, the USDA wrote. Farms have also reported finding dead wild birds on their properties.

“At this stage, there is no concern about the safety of the commercial milk supply or that this circumstance poses a risk to consumer health,” the USDA wrote.

Janet Buffer, with the Food and Policy Institute within the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., said consumers do not need to be concerned about the avian flu virus or other viruses or bacteria when consuming pasteurized milk and milk products made from pasteurized milk.

“Milk that enters into the food system is tested and pasteurized to ensure it is safe for human consumption,” Buffer told Healthline. Pasteurization kills any viruses, bacteria or other microbes in the milk, without altering the milk’s taste, appearance or nutritional value.

In addition, milk from sick cows is diverted or destroyed so it doesn’t enter the food supply, the USDA wrote.

Sales of raw milk, also known as unpasteurized milk, are regulated by each state. Many states have declared the sale of raw milk illegal, but others allow for its sale with conditions.

Raw milk can contain dangerous bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria and Campylobacter, or other harmful microbes. Raw milk is especially dangerous to children, older adults, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems.

Federal and state agencies are conducting additional testing, including viral genome testing, the USDA said in its release. This will provide a better understanding of which strain or strains of the bird flu virus are involved in these cases.

Initial genetic testing by the National Veterinary Services Laboratories did not find any changes to the virus that would make it spread more easily to people. “[This] would indicate that the current risk to the public remains low,” the USDA wrote.

This is the first time HPAI has been detected in dairy cattle and only the second time it has been detected in a ruminant, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) said on March 25 in a press release.

“The first detection of HPAI in dairy cattle in Texas and Kansas underscores the importance of adherence to biosecurity measures, vigilance in monitoring for disease, and immediately involving your veterinarian when something seems ‘off’,” AMVA President Dr. Rena Carlson said in the release.

For dairies whose herds are showing symptoms, on average about 10% of each affected herd is impacted, the USDA wrote in its release. Few or no cows have died as a result of their infection.

In addition, “milk loss resulting from symptomatic cattle to date is too limited to have a major impact on supply, and there should be no impact on the price of milk or other dairy products,” the department wrote.

The bird flu is a disease in birds caused by infection with avian influenza Type A viruses. These viruses occur naturally among wild aquatic birds but can infect domestic poultry such as chickens.

Some bird flu viruses can also spread to domestic animals such as cats and dogs, as well as to wild mammals.

Bird flu viruses don’t usually infect people, but can in rare cases. Infections in people range from no symptoms or mild illness to severe illness that can result in death. The bird flu viruses responsible for the most infections in people have been H7N9 and H5N1.

“Viruses jumping from one species to another should always be of concern,” Darin Detwiler, an associate teaching professor at Northeastern University and food safety advocate, told Healthline.

“This ‘flu’ has resulted in the killing of huge numbers of birds and impacted food availability and cost.”

From 2019 to 2022, the global avian flu outbreak has resulted in the loss of 40 million domestic birds and economic costs ranging from $2.5 to $3 billion, according to an industry report from the non-profit group FAIRR.

While pasteurization protects consumers from ingesting harmful pathogens in milk and milk products, Buffer said people should remain diligent when around domestic farm animals or wild animals. This will reduce the risk of becoming ill with any disease carried by those animals.

“If choosing to interact with animals such as cows, chickens, sheep and goats, always avoid touching your face with your hands, especially your eyes, nose and mouth,” she said, “and always wash your hands after coming into contact with the animals and their surroundings.”

Milk samples from sick cattle at two dairy farms in Kansas and one in Texas tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus, aka “bird flu” virus. A cow at another dairy in Texas also tested positive.

Officials from the USDA said there is no concern about the safety of the commercial milk supply due to the illness among cattle. Milk from affected animals is diverted or destroyed to keep it out of the food supply. Milk is also pasteurized, which kills any viruses, bacteria or other microbes.

Bird flu viruses occur naturally among wild aquatic birds, but can infect domestic chickens and other poultry. These viruses can also infect mammals, including domestic dogs and cats. In rare cases, people can become infected, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe.

Our experts continually monitor the health and wellness space, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.

Q: Did the discovery surprise you?

A: In some ways. These influenza viruses are changing all the time, and there’s pretty good evidence that all four types have been infecting cattle for a number of years. In fact, there’s a very nice report published in 2019. But in that same report, the authors said that maybe there’s something about the cattle that makes them sort of immune to serious disease and transmission? Well, something has changed, because there’s a multiple state epizootic with animals becoming ill, and the likelihood that the transmission is from cow to cow and farm to farm is much higher than before.

Scientist who tracks infections on cattle farms discusses implications of recently announced virus detections

It looks that the bird flu virus that has devastated the world has emerged in the U S. dairy cows, the first cattle to have this viral subtype identified in any documentation Three U. S. states—Texas, Kansas, and New Mexico—reported on March 25 that cows had become ill from an H5N1 influenza strain that is thought to have killed hundreds of millions of poultry and wild birds.

Cattle infections are causing limited disease in mostly older animals and spoiling milk. Additionally, dead birds have been discovered on a few of the farms, which could help identify the virus’s origin. Public health experts have emphasized that there is still little risk of the virus in humans.

The so-called highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus spreading in birds has already been documented to infect dozens of other mammalian species, but rarely spreads between them. Earlier this month, HPAI was found in a goat in Minnesota, the first case in U.S. livestock.

Gregory Gray, an epidemiologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch, calls the new detections in cows across multiple states a “worrisome” development because it may signal this bird flu strain is spreading directly between cattle, instead of via birds, and has mutated in ways that could allow it to better infect people. But preliminary studies on the affected cows show no signs that the virus has changed, the National Veterinary Services Laboratories said in a statement yesterday.

The U. S. In contrast to when the virus attacks poultry farms, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) is not requiring farmers to cull afflicted herds. Pasteurization destroys the virus in any milk produced by an infected cow, according to USDA officials.

Several other of the four influenza virus types are known to infect cattle, but this is the first HPAI to sicken them. Only Texas has officially confirmed that the bird flu found in its cows is the H5N1 subtype, and none of the three states have yet reported whether it is the clade causing widespread death in birds, 2.3.4.4b. USDA said in a statement to Science that “testing from Texas shows consistency with the strain seen in wild birds,” and that federal and state scientists are rapidly trying to complete genetic testing.

Gray discussed the finding of the bird flu in cattle with Science. Gray is conducting an ongoing study to track infections that spread between cattle and their farmers. The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Q: How does a cow get infected by a bird?

A: That’s a great question. There’s mixing of habitat certainly. There’s a sharing of water. Equine influenza was discovered in camels in Mongolia, and it was most likely caused by them sharing a desert watering hole. Therefore, there are probably several ways for wild birds to mate with cattle.

FAQ

Can cattle get bird flu?

The detection of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in dairy cows that had a puzzling illness syndrome, announced earlier this week, was a stunning twist in the story of a H5N1 virus that has been circulating globally, including in US birds since early 2022.

What animals can have bird flu?

Bird flu viruses have in the past been known to sometimes infect mammals that eat (presumably infected) birds or poultry, including but not limited to wild animals, such as seals, bears, foxes, skunks; farmed mink; stray or domestic animals, such as cats and dogs; and zoo animals, such as tigers and leopards.

Can a cow get the flu?

Three U.S. states—Texas, Kansas, and New Mexico—on 25 March reported cows sickened with what scientists are presuming is the same H5N1 strain of influenza that has killed hundreds of millions of poultry and wild birds. The cattle infections are spoiling milk and causing limited disease in mostly older animals.

Can humans get bird flu?

Some strains of bird flu can pass to humans but this is very rare. It usually requires very close contact between humans and infected birds.