HPAI detected in an O’Brien county dairy herd

by | Jun 6, 2024 | 5 Ag Stories, News

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) have detected a case of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in O’Brien County, Iowa. Final confirmatory testing is pending at the National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) in Ames.

The affected farm is a dairy herd, and this is Iowa’s first reported case of HPAI within a dairy. To date, APHIS has confirmed over 80 dairy cases on farms in South Dakota, Texas, Ohio, North Carolina, Michigan, Kansas, Idaho and Colorado.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship will soon be announcing additional response measures.

Additionally, genomic sequencing of the virus that was detected at the Sioux County farm announced on May 28 was determined by the NVSL in Ames to be consistent with the variant identified in affected dairies in other states. Sequencing is not yet completed on the virus detected at a recent turkey flock in Cherokee County or this dairy in O’Brien County. Epidemiological investigations are ongoing to try to determine how the virus was introduced into the flocks and herd.

“Given the spread of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza within dairy cattle in many other states, it is not a surprise that we would have a case given the size of our dairy industry in Iowa. While lactating dairy cattle appear to recover with supportive care, we know this destructive virus continues to be deadly for poultry. Our team at the Department has been preparing for this possibility and will soon be announcing additional response steps to protect our flocks and herds,” said Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig. “Poultry producers and dairy farmers should immediately take steps to harden their biosecurity defenses, limit unnecessary visitors, and report symptomatic birds or cattle to the Department. This remains an evolving situation and we will continue to be in close communication with stakeholders, USDA, and other states as we evaluate our response. Our top priority is to protect our livestock and the farmers and people who care for them.”

About HPAI
HPAI is a viral disease that affects both wild and domestic bird populations as well as lactating dairy cattle.  HPAI can travel in wild birds without those birds appearing sick, but is often fatal to domestic bird populations, including chickens and turkeys. With supportive care, dairy cattle recover with little to no mortality associated with the disease.

Suspected Cases in Dairy
If dairy producers suspect cases of HPAI, they should contact their herd veterinarian immediately. Possible cases must also be reported to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship at (515) 281-5305. USDA’s federal order regulating the interstate movement of lactating dairy cattle remains in effect.

Clinical signs of HPAI in dairy may include:

  • Decrease in food consumption with a simultaneous decrease in rumination
  • Clear nasal discharge
  • Drop in milk production
  • Tacky or loose feces
  • Lethargy
  • Dehydration
  • Fever
  • Thicker, concentrated, colostrum-like milk

Heightened Biosecurity
The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship is strongly encouraging Iowa poultry producers and dairy farmers to bolster their biosecurity practices and protocols to protect their flocks and herds. The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship has biosecurity recommendations for dairy herds to utilize. In addition, the Department has numerous other biosecurity resources for poultry producers and livestock farms to reference on its website. Farmers or farm workers who interact regularly with both dairy and poultry or who interact frequently with other farm workers in poultry or dairy, should take extra precautions to limit possible transmissions.

Suspected Cases in Poultry
If poultry producers or those with backyard birds suspect signs of HPAI, they should contact their veterinarian immediately. Possible cases must also be reported to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship at (515) 281-5305.

Clinical signs of HPAI in birds may include:

  • Sudden increase in bird deaths without any clinical signs
  • Lethargy and/or lack of energy and appetite
  • Decrease in egg production
  • Soft, thin-shelled and/or misshapen eggs
  • Swelling of the head, eyelids, comb, wattles, and hocks
  • Purple/blue discoloration of the wattles, comb, and legs
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing, sneezing, and/or nasal discharge (runny nose)
  • Stumbling and/or falling down
  • Diarrhea

Food Safety
It remains safe to enjoy poultry products. As a reminder, consumers should always properly handle and cook eggs and poultry products, including cooking to an internal temperature of 165˚F. It is a longstanding practice that only milk from healthy animals may enter the food supply. There is no concern about the safety of pasteurized milk or dairy products. Pasteurization has continually proven to successfully inactivate bacteria and viruses, like influenza, in milk.

Public Health
Though recent cases of HPAI were confirmed in dairy workers in Texas and Michigan, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) continues to believe the threat to the general public remains low. Any questions related to public health should be directed to the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services at alex.murphy@hhs.iowa.gov. There are no known human cases in Iowa.