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Bird flu confirmed in Idaho dairy cows

Frankie Barnhill
Boise State Public Radio

The U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed the detection of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in an Idaho dairy herd on Tuesday.

The Idaho State Department of Agriculture announced last week the presumed positive cases found at a Cassia County dairy operation.

The cows started experiencing symptoms shortly after the farm received a shipment of cattle from an operation in Texas, where animals later tested positive.

“They have a drop in their milk production, and the quality of their milk, it seems to be causing it to thicken a little bit, increase its viscosity,” said Dr. Scott Leibsle, the state veterinarian.

He said the group of affected cows is isolated and there’s no concern for consumers. Commercial milk is pasteurized and milk from sick cows is not allowed to enter the supply chain.

These are the first cases of HPAI in livestock in Idaho. It’s thought that the virus might have been transmitted between cows.

Leibsle said the high level of automation at Idaho dairy farms means they can quickly identify small fluxes in individual cows' milk production.

“They're really well positioned to try and identify sick animals before they're even clinically symptomatic,” he said.

Idaho is currently not letting in cattle and bison from Texas, Kansas and New Mexico – other states with positive cases – unless the animals are headed to an approved slaughter facility within three days.

The state is also emphasizing standard sanitation and biosecurity protocols for dairy farms like cleaning milking tubes between cows, scrubbing work boots and washing hands.

A Texas worker tested with direct exposure to sick cows tested positive for the virus, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the risk to the general public is low. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare said it’s working to provide prevention guidance and health monitoring for workers at the Cassia County farm.

Idaho’s greatest concern is decreased milk production and economic losses on farms, said Leibsle. The state ranks third for milk production. He said he’ll be watching for how long the virus takes cows out of milking, how they recover and what sort of care they need in the meantime.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on X @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2024 Boise State Public Radio

Copyright 2024 Boise State Public Radio News. To see more, visit Boise State Public Radio News.

Rachel Cohen joined Boise State Public Radio in 2019 as a Report for America corps member. She is the station's Twin Falls-based reporter, covering the Magic Valley and the Wood River Valley.