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Minnesota cow herd tests positive for bird flu; "Pasteurized dairy products remain safe to consume," says CDC

Minnesota cows test positive for bird flu
Minnesota cows test positive for bird flu 02:06

BENSON COUNTY, Minn. — Lab tests have confirmed highly pathogenic avian influenza in a dairy herd in Benson County, the Minnesota Board of Animal Health said.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza, also known as the bird flu, HPAI or H5N1, is a highly contagious virus that is transmitted from wild birds to domestic poultry and other animals.

According to the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, a producer noticed signs of illness in only a few cows over the weekend. The next day, however, the producer reported that over 40 cows had contracted a fever. 

Samples were collected from sick cows and sent to the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory where the test results came back positive. The following day, the USDA's National Veterinary Services Laboratories also confirmed the test results. 

Neither the Board of Animal Health or the USDA has confirmed that the positive test results mean all 40 cows who showed signs of illness had contracted HPAI. 

"We knew it was only a matter of time before this detection would reach our doorstep," said State Veterinarian Dr. Brian Hoefs. "It's important for dairy farmers to follow the example of this herd and test sick cows. The more the animal health community can learn about this virus today through testing and research, the better we can equip ourselves to prevent infections tomorrow."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pasteurized dairy products remain safe to consume.

MORE NEWS: Western Minnesota goat tests positive for bird flu; first case of its kind in US history

However, dairy farmers are being advised to take extra precautions with their herds in order to prevent the spread of the virus. Dairy farms are required to dispose of milk from sick animals and isolate the affected cows from the rest of the herd for 30 days. After 30 days from the last positive test has passed, the herd can be retested and released from quarantine. 

Also, farmers are being told to look out for other symptoms of illness — outside of a fever — which include a drop in milk production, loss of appetite and changes in manure consistency.   

The risk to the public from this virus remains low at this time, says the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. 

The Minnesota Board of Animal Health is working closely with the Minnesota Department of Health on response plan. 

The people who would be most affected by the virus are those who work with or have direct contact with infected animals. If you are a part of this population, the CDC recommends wearing personal protective equipment — or PPE — to protect themselves from infection.

Symptoms of avian influenza in people may include cough, sore throat, fever, red/watery eyes or discharge from the eyes.  

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