After bird flu found in cows, vets asked for samples

Enterprise file photo — Saranac Hale Spencer

Researchers and officials are working to minimize the impacts of a potential bird flu outbreak among cattle in New York state, but emphasize that risk to animals, people, and markets at this point is low. 

ALBANY COUNTY — To get a head start on any potential outbreaks of bird flu among cattle in New York state, veterinarians are being asked to submit samples from potentially affected cows to Cornell’s Animal Health Diagnostic Center, which is sequencing the virus to determine how it spreads and ways to prevent it, according to Cornell Chronicle

No cattle in New York State have tested positive for the flu so far, but outbreaks in a handful of other states, including Ohio and Michigan, have put officials and researchers on alert.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, it’s believed that cattle are picking up the virus from wild birds — who, per Cornell Chronicle, infect water supplies when they pass through an area — but there’s reason to suspect it’s passing between cattle as well. While the bird flu has infected at least one person so far, the public threat is considered low, the USDA says. 

The Animal Health Diagnostic Center says that typical symptoms in cows include “a pronounced drop in milk production, a decrease in appetite and rumination, mild respiratory signs, low grade fever, and thickened ‘colostrum-like’ milk.”

Some of the affected farms also noted the presence of several dead birds, the center says, with the USDA noting that the specific species were pigeons, blackbirds, and grackles.

Information from the Animal Health Diagnostic Center on testing and sending samples can be found at the following link:

The USDA says it’s not expecting that outbreaks will lead to cullings in cattle herds, since the virus appears to be far less fatal than in birds as no deaths have been reported so far. It also says that milk supply is typically in a surplus during the spring months, so there is unlikely to be a shortage, and no need for a recall, thanks to pasteurization. 

“We have not had any cause for concern here in New York State, but we are in close contact with our industry partners and with our veterinarians across New York State as a precaution,” New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard Ball is quoted as saying in a release. “It’s extremely important to note to consumers that these detections do not impact our food supply, and that pasteurized milk and dairy products are safe for New Yorkers to eat and drink.”

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