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Avian influenza is spreading on dairy farms.Midwest farmers say they're cautious but not alarmed.

Avian influenza is spreading on dairy farms.Midwest farmers say they're cautious but not alarmed.


Farmers and dairy industry officials in the Midwest say they remain cautious, but not overly alarmed, as avian influenza spreads through dairy herds. According to the US Department of Agriculture, highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses have been detected in eight states.

This avian influenza strain had already been detected in the US among wild animals It has been occurring in poultry flocks, but in recent weeks it has been detected for the first time in dairy cows. The outbreak was first discovered in a herd in Texas, It has since spread to dairy farms in New Mexico, Kansas, South Dakota, Idaho, Michigan, Ohio, and North Carolina.

In the Midwest, the Kansas Department of Agriculture and the Department of Agriculture detected influenza at three commercial dairy farms in late March. Kansas Animal Health Director Justin Smith said in a statement that he is working with federal and state health officials to monitor the situation.

“We encourage all livestock owners to practice enhanced biosecurity measures, particularly by restricting livestock access to and from their premises,” Mr Smith said. “We also encourage livestock owners and veterinarians to promptly report illness in cattle so that we can minimize further impact in the state.”

Bird flu is often fatal to chickens, but so far it appears to be much milder in cattle.of USDA advises farmers Look for symptoms such as decreased milk production or decreased food intake. So far, only about 10% of infected herds have become ill, and most have recovered, experts say.

That's encouraging for dairy farmers, said Sean Cornelius, a third-generation dairy farmer and nutritionist in northwest Missouri.

“Everyone is very aware of the situation,” Cornelius said. “Farm owners and managers are in constant communication with their veterinarians and other resources to understand how things are progressing. I don't think that's too worrying. But I am very cautious.”

During the current outbreak, the virus has spread to at least one person. A commercial dairy worker in Texas developed conjunctivitis and later tested positive for the virus. The employee was not hospitalized, and there appears to be no human-to-human transmission. Center for Disease Control.

“This particular virus doesn't seem to be very pathogenic to humans,” said Philip Jardon, an extension dairy veterinarian at Iowa State University.

To protect themselves, workers must wear personal protective equipment such as goggles and masks, he said.

Experts believe the dairy cows likely contracted avian influenza from infected wild migratory birds. The farm in Texas, where the first case was confirmed, contained infected carcasses of pigeons, blackbirds and grackles, the USDA said.

To protect the safety of herds, veterinary experts are advising farmers to delay plans to purchase new cattle. When introducing cattle to a herd, newly purchased cattle should be quarantined to ensure they are not diseased.

“The fact that the morbidity of cows in infected herds is quite low, the fact that not many cows actually show clinical signs or ultimately recover, I think this is going to be a problem for us. ” said Jardon. “But for the time being there will be problems. I don't want to downplay that either.”

Oklahoma State Veterinarian Rod Hall said he will continue to update the state's dairy producers as the situation develops.

“We're not causing panic,” he said. “Dairy farms are aware of that. And they are taking what we believe are necessary precautions to prevent infection.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, milk is pasteurized and is still safe to drink. This means that milk is heated at high temperatures for a period of time to kill potentially harmful microorganisms.

“Pasteurization continues to be shown to inactivate bacteria and viruses, such as influenza, in milk,” the USDA says. It said in the information guide.

In addition to pasteurization, milk is discarded on dairy farms with symptomatic cows. Cornelius said he wants people to understand that milk safety is a top priority for dairy farmers like him.

Cornelius said, “Even with this outbreak, I feel very safe that my granddaughter is still drinking milk today because I know that milk is safe.''

The Agriculture Department said milk prices are unlikely to be affected because the number of cases is still low and the outbreak comes at a time when milk production is generally high.

This story was produced with the help of: harvest public media; A collaboration of Midwest public media newsrooms. Reports on food systems, agriculture and rural issues.




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