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## Avian Influenza Detected in U.S. Dairy Cattle

A form of avian influenza that is highly fatal in birds has been confirmed in U.S. dairy cattle in Texas and Kansas, the Department of Agriculture announced on Monday. This marks the first instance of cows being infected with the virus, which is believed to have been transmitted by wild birds. The Texas Animal Health Commission confirmed the presence of the H5N1 subtype of the virus, similar to the strain affecting bird populations nationwide.

The findings were the result of a collaborative effort by federal and state agencies investigating reports of illness in cattle across multiple states. The virus predominantly impacts older cows, displaying symptoms such as reduced appetite, fever, and decreased milk production. Fortunately, there have been minimal to no reports of fatalities within the affected herds thus far.

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## Safety Measures and Expert Testimony

Concerns regarding the safety of the milk supply have been addressed by both the Department of Agriculture and external experts. According to Dr. Jim Lowe, a veterinarian and influenza researcher, the virus has only been detected in abnormal milk, which has been promptly discarded. Dairies are mandated to divert or dispose of milk from sick animals to mitigate any potential risks.

Following the detection of highly pathogenic bird flu in goats in Minnesota, the identification of the virus in cows raises additional concerns. Nevertheless, genomic analysis has shown no genetic mutations that would enhance the virus’s ability to infect humans. The agency reassures the public that the risk to human health remains low.

Stacey L. Schultz-Cherry, a virologist, emphasizes the likelihood of the infection originating from contact with diseased wild birds. However, the unexpected susceptibility of cows to avian influenza underscores the gravity of the ongoing global outbreak. The novel strain of the H5N1 virus has crossed species barriers, posing a threat to both wildlife and domestic animals.

## Potential Transmission Routes and Future Surveillance

Experts suggest that wild birds may have transmitted the virus to cows through contaminated food or water sources. Dr. Joe Armstrong highlights the role of migratory birds in spreading the virus to livestock, with potential involvement from free-ranging cats on farms. While the primary cause of illness in the infected cows is yet to be determined, ongoing surveillance is essential to monitor the situation closely.

Andrew Bowman cautions against mammalian infections, as they provide opportunities for the virus to evolve and potentially pose a greater risk to public health. The mode of transmission between cattle remains a crucial aspect that requires urgent clarification. Genetic sequencing of the virus can offer valuable insights into its spread and evolution, aiding in risk assessment and containment strategies.

As flu surveillance in cattle intensifies, Richard Webby emphasizes the importance of monitoring and assessing the prevalence of the virus among livestock. The outbreak underscores the need for enhanced vigilance and diagnostic protocols to prevent further spread within the cattle population. Moving forward, a comprehensive approach to monitoring and controlling avian influenza in dairy cattle is paramount to safeguarding both animal and human health.

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