Bird flu hits Texas dairy cows, chickens, people as ducks migrate -April 3, 2024 at 12:07 PM

Bird flu hits Texas dairy cows, chickens, people as ducks migrate -April 3, 2024 at 12:07 PM
Bird flu hits Texas dairy cows, chickens, people as ducks migrate -April 3, 2024 at 12:07 PM

Migrating waterfowl are to blame for rising bird flu outbreaks in Texas cows and poultry, and wild birds carrying the virus will soon migrate north, Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller said Tuesday.

The U.S. government has reported cases of the disease since last week in seven Texas dairy herds and in one person who came into contact with cows, making Texas the state most affected by the nation’s first-ever outbreaks in livestock. Texas is the largest livestock producer in the US.

The cases in dairy cattle and the second human case in two years in the United States raised renewed concerns about the virus, which has been infecting poultry flocks and an increasing number of other species worldwide since 2022.

A positive test at a Texas egg farm has led egg producer Cal-Maine to cull 1.6 million laying hens, the company said on Tuesday. Texas had never before experienced such a large outbreak on a commercial poultry farm, Miller said.

“This is spread by waterfowl,” he said in an interview. “It’s migration season.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) first reported on March 25 that a cow and milk from two dairies in Texas had tested positive for bird flu, as well as milk from two dairies in Kansas. The agency later confirmed positive tests in other dairy herds in Texas, New Mexico, Michigan and Idaho.

The virus strain found in subsequent states is very similar to the strain confirmed in the first cases in Texas and Kansas, which appears to have been introduced by wild birds, the USDA said.

“We are ready for the ducks to move north to their breeding grounds,” Miller said. “We think within a week or a little longer they’ll all be out of Texas and we’ll be out of trouble.”

USDA said transmission of the disease between livestock cannot be ruled out.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers the risk of bird flu to humans to be low. The Texas patient’s only symptom was an eye infection, according to the state health department.

Richard Webby, a virologist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, said flu testing in livestock is not routine and it was important to determine the link between the disease in cows and ducks and cats on the farms.

“Some smart people made the connection and actually tested them for flu,” he said.

These cases will lead to a search for similar occurrences in Europe and Asia, said Webby, director of the WHO Collaborating Center for Studies on the Ecology of Influenza in Animals and Birds.

The outbreak in Texas may have started about a month ago when a mysterious illness affected about 40% of the state’s dairy herd, Miller said. He said he now suspects it was bird flu, although officials didn’t know it at the time and can’t confirm it because the animals have recovered.

“We were testing for every livestock disease we could think of and then someone said, ‘What are all those dead birds doing around the dairies?’ Miller said. (Reporting by Tom Polansek; Additional reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Bird flu hits Texas dairy cows chickens people ducks migrate April


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