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

Bird flu fears grow in U.S.
H5N1 bird flu strain spreading to other mammals across U.S. 03:19

STEVENS COUNTY, Minn. — A young goat in western Minnesota has tested positive for bird flu — a case that is the first of its kind in the United States.

The goat was living on a farm in Stevens County that, in February, had a flock that tested positive for Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, according to the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. The flock was in quarantine when the goat tested positive.

The board says this is the first time that HPAI has been detected in a domestic ruminant — cattle, sheep, goats, and their relatives — in the United States. It's previously been found in other mammals like skunks, dogs, cats, and the virus killed a polar bear for the first time earlier this year. Since the start of the 2022 HPAI outbreak, more than 200 mammals have tested positive for the virus.

However, experts say that mammals cannot spread the disease themselves.

"This finding is significant because, while the spring migration is definitely a higher risk transmission period for poultry, it highlights the possibility of the virus infecting other animals on farms with multiple species," said State Veterinarian Dr. Brian Hoefs.

The board learned of the unusual case when the owner flagged the strange deaths of juvenile goats on the property where a backyard poultry flock had been depopulated because of HPAI. The animals had shared a space, including a water source. One of the goats tested positive for H5N1 HPAI, which is the same strain of bird flu that has been spreading since 2022.

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All the adult goats on the property have tested negative, and there have been no more sick goats since March 11.

According to the most recent H5N1 report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Minnesota saw one case of HPAI in a wild bird in the last 30 days. Since the start of the outbreak, Minnesota has seen the greatest number of wild birds test positive with the virus compared to other states.

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