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Discussion thread: H5N1 avian flu in US Dairy Cows - March 24+ - 3 human cases (1 in Texas & 2 in Michigan)

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  • Pathfinder
    What's New

    June 6, 2024

    Today the FDA issued a letter to all states regarding the sale and consumption of raw milk as part of the agency’s ongoing work to protect both human and animal health during the outbreak of Highly Pathogenic H5N1 Avian Influenza (H5N1 HPAI) virus in dairy cattle.
    Updates on Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) Content current as of: 06/06/2024 Regulated Product(s) Food & Beverages ​ Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) is a disease that is highly contagious and often deadly in poultry, caused by highly pathogenic avian influenza A (H5) and A (H7) viruses; it is


    Text of the letter from the PDF link above:

    June 6, 2024

    Dear State, Territorial, Local and Tribal Health Partners:

    We are grateful for your continued partnership as we collectively work to address new developments
    related to the presence of High Pathogenic Avian Influenza A H5N1 (HPAI H5N1) in dairy cattle. The
    assistance and feedback we have received from our regulatory partners at state Departments of Agriculture
    and Health is invaluable.

    We share a common goal of ensuring the safety of our nation’s milk supply. To that end, we are providing
    our latest thinking and science-based recommendations on unpasteurized, raw milk with respect to HPAI
    H5N1 virus. Evidence demonstrates that cattle infected with the HPAI H5N1 virus shed the virus in their
    milk. All raw milk produced from herds with HPAI H5N1 infections has the potential to contain infectious
    HPAI H5N1 virus since it will not be subject to pasteurization.

    Given the current and potential future risks that HPAI H5N1 virus poses to our nation’s public health, as
    well as the health of our nation’s food-producing animals and wildlife, it is important to work together to
    minimize additional exposure of humans and other animal species to the HPAI H5N1 virus to reduce the
    potential for additional HPAI H5N1 infections and reduce the virus’s opportunity to adapt to new hosts.
    Because raw milk has the potential to contain viable (live) HPAI H5N1 virus, it represents a potential route
    of consumer exposure to the virus. Based on the limited research and information available, we do not
    know at this time if the HPAI H5N1 virus can be transmitted to humans through consumption of raw milk
    and products made from raw milk from infected cows. However, exposures on affected farms are
    associated with three documented cases of H5N1 illness in dairy workers.

    While the introduction into interstate commerce of raw milk for human consumption is prohibited under the
    FDA’s authority1 , we know that a number of states permit the intrastate sale of raw milk for human
    consumption, with varying structures and requirements to these state programs. Because of our concerns
    related to HPAI H5N1 virus in raw milk, we are providing the following recommendations for states as we
    continue to work together to address this novel issue:

    • Distribute messaging to the public about the health risks of consuming raw milk and raw milk
    products. Health risks include illness, miscarriages, stillbirths, kidney failure and death. (source:
    Food Safety and Raw Milk | FDA)

    • Monitor dairy cattle herds for signs of illness that would indicate infection with the HPAI H5N1
    o Producers should continue to discard milk, with suitable protocols, from symptomatic cows.
    o Any raw milk or raw milk products from exposed cattle that are fed to calves or any other
    animals should be heat-treated or pasteurized. Exposed cattle are those located on a premises
    with cattle with suspected or confirmed infections with HPAI H5N1 viruses. Many State
    Cooperative Extension Service programs have published detailed information on how to
    pasteurize or otherwise effectively treat waste milk before using it to feed calves (for
    example, Penn State - Pasteurization of Non-Saleable Milk2).

    • Implement a surveillance testing program in your state to identify the presence of HPAI H5N1 virus
    in dairy herds that might be engaged in producing raw milk for intrastate sale. For states that
    implement such a surveillance testing program, sharing data and testing results with their dairy
    regulatory partners (state, FDA, and USDA) will allow for coordinated management of this novel
    virus. Upon request, FDA will provide technical assistance and methodologies for sampling or

    • For states that permit the sale of raw milk within their state, use regulatory authorities or implement
    other measures, as appropriate, to stop the sale of raw milk that may present a risk to consumers.
    This may include restricting the introduction of raw milk that may contain viable HPAI H5N1, for
    human or animal consumption, within a defined geographic area, or within your state. If HPAI
    H5N1 virus is identified within a herd, there is a risk that viable HPAI H5N1 virus could be present
    in raw milk from the herd, even when clinically ill cows are segregated.

    We are committed to continuing to work with our partners to minimize the risks of HPAI H5N1 virus in
    raw milk and raw milk products. Last month, CDC provided guidance to healthcare professionals on
    communicating with the public about the risks of consuming raw milk3. In addition, USDA announced a
    voluntary dairy herd status program along with potential resources on May 30, 20244
    The FDA is responsible for protecting the public health by ensuring the safety of our nation’s food supply.
    Sharing the agency’s recommendations on raw milk and raw milk products with our regulatory partners is
    part of that responsibility. We intend to share new research and data on both HPAI H5N1 virus in raw milk
    and raw milk products. We appreciate your attention and continued support and welcome the opportunity to
    work with you on any of these recommendations.

    Donald A. Prater, DVM
    Agency Incident Coordinator
    Acting Director, Center for Food Safety and
    Applied Nutrition

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  • Commonground
    commented on 's reply
    What I'm thinking is that the pneumonia may not be a "secondary infection" but the signs of the virus as it progresses.

  • sharon sanders
    commented on 's reply
    Sure. The fight against influenza, even seasonal in humans, weakens the body temporarily which leaves it more susceptible to opportunistic illnesses. I assume the same thing happens in other mammals.

  • sharon sanders
    Bird Flu—H5N1 Vs. H5N2. What’s In A Name? Why The Worry?

    Judy Stone
    Senior Contributor
    I am an Infectious Disease specialist and author of Resilience: One Family's Story of Hope and Triumph​

    Jun 6, 2024,01:25pm EDT​

    A new strain of bird flu, H5N2, was just identified in Mexico City, following the death of a 59-year-old man. It has not been previously seen in people. Part of the worry is that the man had been bedridden at home and had no known exposure to birds or animals. The man did have underlying diabetes and chronic kidney failure, both of which make people more susceptible to infections. He became ill on April 17 with fever, shortness of breath, and diarrhea. He died on April 24. None of his contacts have had positive tests for Flu A to date. However, El Universal reported that “12 contacts (seven symptomatic and five asymptomatic) were identified near the patient's residence” and that serology is pending. H5N2 has been known to be circulating in birds in the area.

    It’s confusing to keep all the names of the different flu types straight—H5N1, H5N2, bird flu, swine flu, flu A, flu B, and more.

    The three main types of flu, A, B, and C are named after core proteins. We have annual outbreaks of influenza A, which is the most serious. Influenza A H1N1 caused the deadly 1918 outbreak. Flu B is usually less severe and causes infections every few years. Flu C hasn’t caused epidemics.


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  • Pathfinder
    ‘None of us saw this coming’: Michigan confronts bird flu in cows
    By Izzy Ross, Interlochen Public Radio
    Jun 6, 2024 at 11:09 am
    The question of how the virus has jumped from birds to cows is, so far, unanswered. And scientists say gaining a better understanding of how the bird flu moves between animals is critical to determining how to respond to this outbreak and plan for the next one.

    “I’m a virologist by training, and my other virologist buddies and I all have to admit: None of us saw this coming,” said Kim Dodd, the director of the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Michigan State University.

    “We didn’t expect to find [highly pathogenic] avian influenza in dairy cattle, and to find that it amplifies so well, and that we have so much virus in the milk,” she said. “And so that’s really a big part of trying to understand, you know, what do we do about that to be able to help control the outbreak.”

    When poultry are exposed to or contract the bird flu, they usually either die from the disease or are euthanized, which generally stops the viral spread. That’s not the case for cows.

    “These guys recover after a period of seven to 10 days of mild to moderate illness,” Dodd said. “So those animals are still there and still producing virus while they recover, which gives individuals who are caring for them the opportunity to come into contact with that virus and potentially spread it themselves.”

    Michigan has reported the most cases of the bird flu in dairy herds in the country — officials here say that’s because of widespread testing

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  • Commonground
    Any thoughts on this line of thinking?

    from Post #235 above:

    Some of the animals died of secondary infections contracted after bird flu weakened their immune systems, said state veterinarians, agriculture officials, and academics assisting in state responses to bird flu. ...

    Cattle infected with bird flu suffer reduced milk production, digestive issues, fever, and diminished appetite, according to farmers and veterinarians.

    In South Dakota, a 1,700-cow dairy sent a dozen of the animals to slaughter after they did not recover from the virus, and killed another dozen that contracted secondary infections, said Russ Daly, a professor with South Dakota State University and veterinarian for the state extension office who spoke with the farm.

    “You get sick cows from one disease, then that creates a domino effect for other things, like routine pneumonia and digestive issues,” Daly said.

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  • Commonground
    USDA: Updated today, adding another herd in Texas for a total 84 Herds. [I am still on the lookout for the County(s) in the 2 herd updates on 6/3].

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  • Commonground
    Exclusive: Cows infected with bird flu have died in five US states

    June 6 (Reuters) - Dairy cows infected with avian flu in five U.S. states have died or been slaughtered by farmers because they did not recover, state officials and academics told Reuters.

    Reports of the deaths suggest the bird flu outbreak in cows could take a greater economic toll in the farm belt than initially thought. Farmers have long culled poultry infected by the virus, but cows cost much more to raise than chickens or turkeys.

    A U.S. Department of Agriculture spokesperson said the agency knew of a few deaths but that the vast majority of cows recover well. Reuters was not able to determine the total number of cows with bird flu that died or were killed in South Dakota, Michigan, Texas, Ohio and Colorado.​


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  • Vibrant62
    commented on 's reply
    Whilst this is *potentially* good news, it does not yet explain how the virus is spreading from herd-to-herd across large geographic distances. Wild birds may be the vector, but this is no longer migratory season. So - questions to answer. a) can this particular viral strain be detected in birds in each of the areas where cattle have been infected? b) is this viral strain present in areas where cattle are currently unaffected but in wild birds? c) are outbreaks in cattle in anyway correlated with purchase or introduction of new cattle (i.e could they be bringing it into areas that were previously unaffected?). d) IF there are new outbreaks in cattle herds where the virus is not being detected in wild birds, and there has been no acquisition of new cattle for introduction into a herd, then there is another as yet undetermined vector. Do we have any of these answers on currently available data?

  • Treyfish
    • 05 June 2024
    Huge amounts of bird-flu virus found in raw milk of infected cows

    New findings point to the milking process as a possible route of avian-influenza spread between cows — and from cow to human.
    Milk from cows infected with bird flu contains astronomical numbers of viral particles, which can survive for hours in splattered milk, new data shows1,2. The research adds to growing evidence that the act of milking has probably been driving viral transmission among cows, other animals and potentially humans.

    That’s a better scenario for public health than transmission through airborne particles, which would be more difficult to contain. “It’s good news it’s probably spreading by the milking process,” says Martin Beer, a virologist at the Federal Research Institute for Animal Health in Greifswald, Germany. This means that changes to milking procedures could help to bring the outbreak under control and prevent human infections.

    Scientists had not previously suspected that cattle could easily become infected with bird flu, because the animals were thought to lack the receptor allowing the virus to enter their cells. But reports of sick cattle with inflamed udders raised suspicions that the virus can infect the animals’ mammary glands.

    New studies4,5 support this idea, showing that cells lining cows’ milk glands have abundant receptors for H5N1 and that this bird-flu strain proliferates in these cells rather than in the respiratory tract, which influenza viruses usually infect. “The mammary glands seem to be the main target of viral replication,” says Diego Diel, a virologist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, who co-authored one of the studies. But some infected cows also experience mild respiratory symptoms, Diel and his colleagues report.

    The studies were posted on the preprint server bioRxiv and have not yet been peer reviewed.

    Viral milkshake

    Diel and his colleagues examined the milk of cows with H5N1 and found astonishing amounts of virus: some samples contained hundreds of millions of infectious particles, a level “that is higher than we can grow in the lab” for experiments, says Seema Lakdawala, an influenza virologist at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia. “In ideal conditions, we don’t get that — this is crazy high.”
    This abundance could help to explain why H5N1 viral fragments have been found in one in five retail milk samples6: a small number of infected cows could taint the milk supply with many particles. (Pasteurization inactivates H5N1 in milk, according to a preprint7 posted last week.)

    Beer sees opportunity in the sky-high numbers of infectious virus particles in milk. It means that testing milk pooled from all of a farm’s cows is likely to reveal the presence of even a few infected ones, and this is easier than testing individual animals. Pooled testing could inform workers on when to be on the lookout for sick animals, which could then be isolated.

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  • Commonground
    hat-tip X @HelenBranswell

    Media Report HPAI found in Iowa dairy herd, first case in the state

    By Brent BarnettJun 5, 2024 | 3:09 PM

    Iowa has its first reported case of highly pathogenic avian influenza in dairy cattle.

    The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship says the affected farm is a dairy herd in O’Brien County, located in the northwest corner of the state. According to USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, final confirmation testing is pending at the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa.

    State Ag Secretary Mike Naig says the department will soon be announcing additional response measures.​

    Iowa has its first reported case of highly pathogenic avian influenza in dairy cattle. The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship says the affected farm is a dairy herd in O’Brien County, located in the northwest corner of the state. Acco...

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  • Pathfinder
    ‘Out of control’: Why the discovery of H5N1 bird flu in mice is so alarming

    The emergence of this strain in house mice ‘brings the virus closer to human homes’, experts warn

    5 June 2024 • 4:38pm
    Eleven house mice in the state of New Mexico – where several herds of dairy cattle are infected with H5N1 – tested positive for the avian influenza, new data released by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has shown.
    Mice live in unnervingly close proximity to humans: they scurry beneath floorboards, hide in cupboards and roam our offices, larders and restaurants.

    Their excreta – urine, droppings and saliva – can carry and transmit a wide array of pathogens.

    “This brings the virus closer to human homes,” Dr Rick Bright, a former head of the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development.
    “House mice living near infected farms can spread H5N1 virus into residential areas, making containment of the outbreak significantly more challenging,” explained Dr Bright. “This is out of control.”

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  • sharon sanders

    JUNE 5, 2024

    H5N1 Bird Flu Isn’t a Human Pandemic—Yet. American Contrariness Could Turn It into One

    Americans don’t like being told what to do, and many don’t trust government. These stubborn attitudes might turn H5N1 bird flu into a pandemic


    When H5N1 avian influenza started spreading among dairy cattle across the U.S. this year, regulators warned against consuming unpasteurized milk. What happened? Raw milk sales went up.​


    At such a vulnerable point in time, an old enemy, bird flu, moves into a new host: the milk cow. It’s an animal that people are in constant and intimate contact with, and whose flesh and milk are consumed daily.

    One possible scenario for spillover into the population: a raw-milk drinker or a farmworker gets infected with this strain of H5N1 that’s moving among cattle and also gets co-infected with a human-adapted strain of influenza. In such a situation viruses can swap genes in a process called reassortment. A major fear about H5N1 has always been that it might do this. H5N1 has shown it can easily move from one species to another, acquiring new genetic material in the process.

    Or someone catches H5N1 from a cow or its raw milk, and—perhaps through an immune deficiency—they develop a long-lasting infection that allows the virus to mutate in their body. “There absolutely is a risk here,” says Richard Webby, an expert in animal and human viruses who works at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.


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  • Treyfish
    These are the bird flu questions that influenza and animal scientists desperately want answeredTen weeks after government scientists discovered that H5N1 bird flu was sickening dairy cattle in the United States, many of the mysteries surrounding what is happening on affected farms remain just that.

    Widespread reluctance on the part of farmers to allow scientists — government or otherwise — onto their premises to study spread of the virus among infected cows has created a frustrating lack of understanding of the dynamics of this outbreak. U.S. Department of Agriculture incentives aimed at getting farmers to test their cows and take preventive measures to protect both animals and farmworkers do not seem to have solved the impasse, even as the outbreak has affected 82 herds in nine states​….

    To get a sense of what the key questions are, STAT asked scientists who have long worked on influenza or in veterinary medicine what they viewed as the most pressing questions. Sixteen answered individually; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention answered collectively for three flu experts within its ranks whose opinions we sought.

    The answers — their questions — roughly fit into three buckets: What’s happening on the farms among cows? What’s happening on farms among farmworkers? What’s happening to the virus and what does this all portend for H5N1, which for nearly three decades has danced around humans but has yet to take us on directly. The biggest bucket: What is happening with the cows?

    Ron Fouchier, a flu virologist at Erasmus Medical Center in the Dutch city of Rotterdam, summed up what underlies all of the cow-related questions with the single question he submitted. It was, effectively: How can spread in cows be stopped, and the sooner the better?

    “If this virus becomes enzootic” — endemic or entrenched — “in cows, it could well cause massive damage to human and animal health in the longer term,” Fouchier wrote. “I would find it unacceptable if authorities in the U.S.A. and/or the sector do not try to eradicate this new disease in cows a.s.a.p. If this is not deemed possible, I think the entire world would like to see the evidence and arguments.”
    lot’s more

    STAT asked scientists who have long worked on influenza or in veterinary medicine what they viewed as the most pressing questions about the H5N1 bird flu outbreak.

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