HPAI-Positive Dairy Herd Confirmed in NC, But Questions Remain

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza has been confirmed in a dairy herd in North Carolina. HPAI has previously been detected in dairy herds in six other states. State Veterinarian Dr. Mike Martin tells SFN cows from a herd in Texas that had not been showing signs of HPAI were shipped to Idaho, Michigan and Ohio and subsequently presented clinical signs of the illness. It was then learned that cows from that same herd had been transported to North Carolina.

“USDA’s recommendations at the time were we do not test any herds that do not have clinical signs. That was the kind of the recommendation. But because Idaho, Ohio and Michigan all started having cows that had these signs that then tested positive for high path AI, we went ahead and move forward with testing this herd preemptively, and it has no clinical signs with this disease. And sure enough, we have been able to isolate highly pathogenic avian influenza virus from this herd.”

Movement of cattle from affected herds in the states to North Carolina has now been suspended. But Martin says questions remain as other diseases have been detected, in some cases reported nationwide.

“So you start to get evidence and maybe hypothesis maybe it’s being opportunistic, right? Maybe it has an immunocompromised individual, and it makes its way in that way. So the question really, is that still kind of up in the air? Is the high path AI a catalyst disease, creating the clinical signs that we’re seeing in these herds? Or is it just a tag along opportunistic, and it could be one or the other? I think the jury’s still kind of out on that.”

Dr. Martin says North Carolina has taken a proactive approach and getting out in front of the outbreak.

“No other state has done what we did in North Carolina, right. Nobody else has done this as far as doing this level of investigation and epidemiology. And we did this against the recommendations that were at the time from USDA. So you know, it’s easy to second guess from the backseat, but we are doing everything we can to try to protect our animals here in North Carolina, and protect the privacy of any of these farms that that you know may be affected either now or in the future with this disease as it’s emerging.”

There are a trio of signs that officials are looking for infected herds.

“High producing dairy cattle that one, go off feed, two, start dropping in milk production, and three, have those changes in the milk that caused the discoloration and thickening. Now, is that because of high path AI? I don’t think we have that answer yet. But that’s what got us in this this place in the meantime.”