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County fairs could increase bird flu infections in dairy cows, experts say

County fairs could increase bird flu infections in dairy cows, experts say
County fairs could increase bird flu infections in dairy cows, experts say


CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) – For many county fairgoers, the cattle exhibits are one of the best parts of the festival.

But now Avian influenza has been found in both poultry and dairy cattle in Iowa.One dairy expert said the tradition could further spread the disease.

“Someone called me this morning and asked, 'What is the judge's procedure?' and I said, if I was a judge, I would never touch the front of any animal's neck, I would never touch the udder,” said Larry Tranel, a dairy sector expert at Iowa State University.

As of Monday, avian influenza had been found in seven dairy herds in two northwest Iowa counties.

It is spread through contact with other infected animals.

Also, many people take their animals to county fairs, which could increase the chances of the virus spreading to counties that aren't currently affected, he said.

“Our biggest concern is the floors of the county milk houses where the cows are milked in the parlour. Of course, the cows are milked one at a time, but they come into the parlour to be milked, so the milking system itself could be a vector for infection,” Tranel said.

But officials with the Benton County Fair's cattle shower, which began Wednesday, say they're not changing their biosecurity procedures because the virus has only been detected on the other side of the state.

“We try to make sure it's clean and sanitized before the cows come and everything here is clean, so we're not infecting anyone around us, we just want to make sure everyone around us is safe,” said Madison Sickles of Marengo.

But Sickles said planned out-of-state travel in the fall will likely impact their protocols.

“We'll probably do all of the testing of the cows and things like that, making sure they're safe and healthy before we put them in and making sure there's not a major outbreak where we are,” she explained.

But Tranel said there's no need for people to panic or avoid the fair altogether because the virus spreads very slowly and there's little risk of human infection.

For an extra level of safety, limiting contact between judges, visitors and animals is also an effective way to keep everyone healthy, he says, but be sure to wash your hands after touching the cattle, especially your mouth.




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