Penn State Expert Says Dairy Farmers Shouldn't Worry About Avian Flu

Dairy farmers in Lancaster County and across the nation are on alert due to confirmed cases of avian flu jumping from wild birds to cows. However, a Penn State Extension veterinarian, Hayley Springe, has reassured that there is no major impact expected on the milk supply.

During a recent biosecurity webinar, Springer emphasized that pasteurization kills influenza and all milk transported between states is required to be pasteurized. This means that even if cows were to be affected by the avian flu, the milk would still be safe for consumption.

The U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) also stated that milk from impacted animals is being diverted or destroyed so that it doesn't enter the food supply.

The avian flu cases found in cattle remain of minimal risk to humans, according to a USDA press release. Initial testing by the National Veterinary Services Laboratories has not found changes to the virus that would make it more transmissible to humans, indicating that the current risk to the public remains low.

Springer and assistant state veterinarian Erin Luley encouraged dairy farmers to focus on limiting exposure between cattle and wild birds, as migrating waterfowl have been found to be the biggest risk factor for avian flu transmission. They also emphasized that there is no current evidence of cow-to-cow transmission.

Dairy farmers are encouraged to isolate sick cattle, reduce sources of stress, and monitor feed and water intake until the animals recover. Springer urged consumers and farmers alike to focus on credible sources of information as federal and state officials continue to expand testing of sick cattle.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is working to prepare labs to take samples as they encourage the state’s veterinarians to report suspect cases to an emergency hotline at 717-772-2852.


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