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Bird flu found in cattle on a dairy farm in central Michigan

row of cows
The highly pathogenic avian influenza was found in cattle in Montcalm County. (Courtesy of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources)
  • Highly pathogenic avian influenza was found in cattle in Montcalm County
  • State officials believe it was from infected cattle received from Texas
  • The virus is spread from infected birds to mammals but the public health risk is low

Federal and state agriculture officials have confirmed highly pathogenic avian influenza in a herd of cattle on a dairy farm in Montcalm County.

The farm had recently received cows from Texas, where a very similar strain of the virus has been detected, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in a joint statement with the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


According to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development,  the Texas cattle had been transported to the state before the herd showed any signs of infection. When the cattle arrived in Michigan, they still showed no symptoms.


As of Monday, the USDA had confirmed that cattle in seven dairy herds in Texas, two in Kansas and one in New Mexico had symptoms of highly pathogenic avian influenza. The agency said it also had received “presumptive positive test results” for a herd in Idaho.

"Our highest priorities at MDARD remain protecting our food supply and ensuring animal health,” said Tim Boring, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development “As this situation evolves, we will provide critical updates to producers, industry and all Michiganders.”

Highly pathogenic avian influenza is a virus that is spread when mammals come into contact with infected birds. It can also be spread from items that were exposed to the virus, like equipment, food or clothing.

“This case does reflect a lot of what is already known about this virus—namely, that it is highly contagious, it continues to be primarily spread by wild birds and contact with infected animals, and mammals can contract the virus, " said Nora Wineland, state veterinarian.

In Texas, an individual who came in contact with infected cattle has contracted the disease. Texas officials announced the case Monday, calling it the state’s first human case of novel avian influenza A (H5N1).

Still, the probability of bird flu being spread to humans is very low, and transmission of the disease through pasteurized milk is highly unlikely, according to the USDA.

Symptoms of highly pathogenic avian influenza in cattle include low appetite, decreased lactation and thickened milk.

Health officials urge producers to take preventative measures to protect the animals on their farms and to contact their veterinarians if they are concerned about their animals’ health.

If highly pathogenic avian influenza is suspected, individuals should immediately contact the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

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