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Outbreak alert - Bird flu transmission in dairy cattle


The U.S. dairy industry faces a new challenge as bird flu has infected dairy cows, prompting an investigation into its spread. Research by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) points to the milking process, including contaminated equipment and farm workers' clothing, as potential factors in the outbreak. 

During a recent virtual international meeting, USDA's Mark Lyons highlighted the risk of virus transmission through milking equipment and workers' attire, particularly gloves and clothing contaminated with milk droplets. The focus is on the H5N1 strain, found primarily in milk samples, suggesting the udder as the virus's replication site, rather than evidence of cow-to-cow transmission through direct contact. 

The discovery of bird flu in dairy cattle, now confirmed in six states, has led to a single human infection case in Texas, though the overall risk to the public is deemed low. The USDA's response includes guidelines for enhanced biosecurity on cattle farms to prevent further spread, such as limiting farm access and animal transportation. 

In addition to farm-level precautions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued new safety recommendations for farm workers, emphasizing the importance of personal protective equipment to avoid virus exposure from infected animals or materials. 

This outbreak serves as a critical reminder of the importance of rigorous biosecurity measures in protecting livestock and public health. The USDA, along with health officials, continues to monitor the situation closely, offering guidance and support to affected farms to mitigate the outbreak's impact.

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