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Researcher says high-path avian influenza is not a human risk at this time

An employee of a Texas dairy herd has tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza, but a Wisconsin veterinarian says it does not pose a risk to human health.

Dr. Keith Poulson with the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory says the virus, which is fatal to birds and has recently caused some lactating dairy cows to go off-feed and produce less milk is rare in humans, and people should not be alarmed. “Pasteurized dairy products are safe. They’re considered safe (by) the USDA, FDA, and CDC. So is cooked meat, so really, there isn’t a public health concern, there.”

Poulson says his team, other states, and USDA are all working together to track the virus and make recommendations for people and animals. “We’re watching it closely to see if it does change and become a human health issue. This is certainly something new for ruminants but not for mammals. We’ve seen over 130 mammal species that were affected.”

Poulson says some of the virus transmission now appears to be cow-to-cow, and having good biosecurity measures on the farm will help limit transmission. 

Poulson says the cattle with the virus were diagnosed after producers noticed their ruminant monitors showed the animals were eating less and producing less and the human case was discovered when the patient had an inflammation of the eye checked by a doctor.

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