Bird flu has sickened dairy cows in Kansas, but ‘milk supply remains safe,’ USDA says

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Bird flu has sickened dairy cattle in Kansas and other states, but federal agriculture officials say the milk supply remains safe.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced Monday that milk samples of sick cattle from two Kansas dairy farms and one in Texas tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza, more commonly known as bird flu.

The Kansas Department of Agriculture said in a news release that these are the first cases of bird flu in commercial dairy operations in the state.

U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kansas, said in a statement that his office has been in close contact with federal and state officials and industry stakeholders.

The tests come as the USDA, the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have worked with state veterinary and public health officials to investigate sick dairy cows in Kansas, Texas and New Mexico.

“Initial testing by the National Veterinary Services Laboratories has not found changes to the virus that would make it more transmissible to humans, which would indicate that the current risk to the public remains low,” the USDA news release said.

“At this stage, there is no concern about the safety of the commercial milk supply or that this circumstance poses a risk to consumer health,” the USDA added. “Dairies are required to send only milk from healthy animals into processing for human consumption; milk from impacted animals is being diverted or destroyed so that it does not enter the food supply.

“In addition, pasteurization has continually proven to inactivate bacteria and viruses, like influenza, in milk. Pasteurization is required for any milk entering interstate commerce.”

Federal officials said the disease appears to have been introduced to the cattle herds by wild birds, and that about 10% of the herds exhibit symptoms.

The Kansas Department of Agriculture encouraged dairy producers to monitor their herd and contact their local veterinarian if cattle appear infected. Symptoms are mostly in older dairy cows and include a drop in milk production, loss of appetite and changes in manure consistency.

Federal officials said reporting the illnesses will authorities monitor the situation and minimize the impact.

The state agency also encouraged producers to minimize wildlife access to water and feed sources for their cattle.

The agriculture department said the Kansas Department of Health and Environment has been notified.

As reported in the Topeka Capital Journal

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