Officials Collecting Vital Data on HPAI in Dairy Cattle

Animal disease experts are collecting a massive amount of data on the outbreak of avian influenza in dairy herds.

It started back in mid-March when dairy operators in Texas and Kansas began noticing signs of illness, which turned out to be avian influenza. On March 25, lab tests confirmed to the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in cattle from two dairies in Texas and two in Kansas. Since then, there have been confirmations of bird flu infections among cattle in Michigan, New Mexico, Idaho, Ohio, and now in North Carolina. Livestock disease experts are working to find out more about how dairy cattle are coming down with avian influenza. Dr. Rosemary Sifford with the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service told us…

“It is really important at this time for us to receive information about these herds and receive samples from these herds so that we can get a more clear picture of exactly what’s going on. And so we have epidemiologists who are working with producers to gather up information, and we’re working with our state animal health officials to get samples into the lab for testing. All of that information helps us to understand much more clearly what role high path avian influenza is playing in this overall illness and dairy cattle and what we can do to more effectively prevent it in the future. And so looking at that data and those test results, we will continue to develop recommendations for producers for how to control and prevent the illness that they’re seeing in dairy cattle at this time.”

So far veterinary officials are not putting mandatory quarantines around those dairies where some of the cows have contracted avian influenza. Dr. Rosemary Sifford also says right now, there are no plans to depopulate cattle in herds with confirmed bird flu infections and here’s why. So far…

“It appears that the cattle are able to recover after a couple of weeks, go back into the milking herd, and so at this point we do not expect to need to depopulate cattle.”

Dairy operators across the country are being asked to step up their biosecurity efforts and to watch their cows for symptoms of avian influenza.

“The primary symptoms in dairy cattle are loss of appetite, going off feed, and then a dramatic drop in milk production, and some of the cattle occasionally show a slight fever.”

If you see those symptoms in your herd, contact your vet right away.