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Researchers learning more about HPAI spread in cattle

A veterinarian says new cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza suggest dairy cattle aren’t just contracting the virus from infected birds.

Dr. Keith Poulson with the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory says they continue to monitor its spread. “The Michigan and Idaho herds, they were the first ones to suggest that maybe this isn’t just a point source infection from birds and a water source, which is what we thought for about two or three weeks, and there is a potential now for lateral transmission or cow-to-cow infection.”

Poulson says the virus is affecting cattle much differently than poultry. “They recover. As we know, any cow in mid to late lactation that takes a drop in milk, it takes them longer to recover, but cows are not dying. This is very different than how it manifests in our domestic poultry, whether it be ducks, chickens, or turkeys.”

Poulson says ruminant monitors alerted dairy managers when cows were not eating or producing normally, and he says any symptoms need to be reported to the herd veterinarian right away. “If they see this on the farm, we certainly need to know about it so we can manage it effectively.”

Despite the recent case of HPAI detected in a worker on a dairy farm in Texas, USDA and the Center for Disease Control say the risk to the general public remains low.  Meat and milk from infected animals do not enter the food supply chain.

AUDIO: Dr. Keith Poulson discusses highly-pathogenic avian influenza in dairy cattle with Brownfield’s Larry Lee

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