Avian flu detected for first time in US livestock

baby goats

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The Minnesota Board of Animal Health (MBAH) today announced that highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has been detected in a baby goat that lived on a farm where an outbreak had recently been detected in poultry. Today’s announcement marks the first US detection in livestock.

Health officials, including the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), are investigating the transmission of the virus on the farm, which is located in Stevens County in west-central Minnesota. All species on the farm have been placed under quarantine. Poultry had already been quarantined following the February outbreak.

"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 Minnesota state veterinarian Brian Hoefs, DVM. " Thankfully, research to-date has shown mammals appear to be dead-end hosts, which means they’re unlikely to spread HPAI further."

Unusual deaths in newborn goats

The goats were tested after the farmer noticed unusual deaths in newborn goats, which followed culling of poultry as part of the response to the February outbreak. The goats and the poultry shared the same space, as well as the same water source.

One of the goats was taken to the Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostics Laboratory, where testing revealed influenza A. Follow-up tests at the USDA's National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, identified the virus as H5N1, the same virus that has been circulating in wild birds and poultry in multiple countries, including the United States.

The USDA reported the notification to the World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH), which had a few more details about the findings. The report said the goats at the farm began to kid only days after the poultry, which included chickens and ducks, were depopulated. Ten goats died, which ranged from 5 to 9 days old. Brain and tissue samples from five goat kids were positive for H5N1, which belonged to clade

Genomic sequencing revealed that samples from the first goat and poultry from the farm were highly related.

Vulnerable animals at higher risk

The MBAH noted that HPAI has been detected in other mammal species such as skunks, dogs, and cats. However, animals with weakened or immature immune systems, such as the newborn goats, are at increased risk of contracting the disease.

As part of the response, the Minnesota Department of Health is monitoring people who had contact with the goats and issued recommendations for personal protective equipment use in that setting.

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