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    HPAI In Domesticated Ruminants And Camelids: FAQ

    Recent detections of highly pathogenic avian influenza (“HPAI”) have been alarming caregivers. Please read on to learn more.

    This resource was originally published on March 29, 2024. It was most recently updated on July 15, 2024.

    Check Back For Updates
    This is an evolving situation. We’ll be updating this resource weekly and will indicate when it was last updated above.

    Click Here For HPAI Updates In Domesticated Ruminants And Camelids In The U.S.
    March 20, 2024 – The Minnesota Board Of Animal Health (MBAH) announced the first detection of HPAI in a domesticated ruminant in the U.S. after a goat kid in Stevens County tested positive. Earlier in March, MBAH was notified about unusual deaths in newborn goats who were born on the same property where HPAI had been detected in domesticated birds. The goat kids were born only days after the birds on the property had been killed as part of regional control efforts to stop the spread of disease. The goats and birds on this property not only shared the same space but also had access to a shared water source. According to MBAH, the adult goats on the property all appear healthy and have tested negative for HPAI. Additionally, there have been no reports of sick goat kids on the property since March 11. MBAH announced that they are working with the USDA to investigate this case.

    March 25, 2024 – The USDA announced that diagnostic samples from dairies in Texas and Kansas had tested positive for HPAI. These samples were taken from sick cows. Testing for HPAI was initiated because deceased wild birds had been found on the properties, and according to the USDA, the virus appears to have been introduced by wild birds. At the affected dairies, about 10% of the cows were affected, but no deaths were reported. Domesticated cats were also affected in Texas.

    March 28, 2024 – The Idaho Department of Agriculture announced that it had identified highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in a Cassia County dairy cow operation. The Department noted that the affected facility recently imported cows from another state that had previously identified cases of HPAI in cows.

    March 29, 204 – The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development announced that it had identified HPAI in dairy cows located in Montcalm County. The department notes that this facility recently received cows from an affected premises in Texas before that herd showed any sign of disease.

    March 29, 2024 – The USDA, FDA, and CDC shared an update regarding HPAI detections in dairy cows. This announcement mentioned confirmed detections in Kansas, Texas, and Michigan herds, as well as additional presumptive positive results in Idaho, New Mexico, and Texas. They also issued this FAQ regarding the detection of HPAI in cows.

    April 1, 2024 – The CDC announced that a human in the United States has tested positive for HPAI as reported by Texas and confirmed by CDC. This person had exposure to dairy cows in Texas presumed to be infected with HPAI A(H5N1) viruses. The patient reported eye redness (consistent with conjunctivitis), as their only symptom, and is recovering.

    April 1, 2024 – The USDA confirmed the detection of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in dairy cows in New Mexico as well as in 5 additional herds in Texas.

    April 2, 2024 – The USDA confirmed the detection of HPAI in dairy cows in Wood County, Ohio.

    *From this point forward in the list, we will list only the first detection in domesticated ruminants in each state, as well as the first detection in a new domesticated species*

    April 9, 2024 – The USDA confirmed the detection of HPAI in a cow dairy herd in North Carolina and in South Dakota

    April 25, 2024 – The USDA confirmed the detection of HPAI in dairy cows in Northeast Colorado.

    May 16, 2024 – The USDA confirmed the detection of HPAI in alpacas in Idaho. According to the USDA, this detection was not unexpected because HPAI had also been detected in a backyard flock on the same property, and the alpacas had close contact with the affected birds.

    June 5, 2024 – The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship confirmed the detection of HPAI in a cow dairy herd in O’Brien County.

    June 6, 2024 – The Minnesota Board Of Animal Health confirmed the detection of HPAI in a cow dairy herd.

    June 7, 2024 – The Wyoming Department Of Agriculture confirmed the detection of HPAI in a cow dairy herd.

    July 12, 2024 – The Oklahoma Department Of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry announced the detection of HPAI in a cow dairy herd.

    Introduction

    With the detections of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in domesticated ruminants and camelids, caregivers are likely wondering what this latest development means and how they can continue to keep their residents safe. This is an evolving situation, and so, unfortunately, there is still much we do not know. In this resource, we’ll do our best to answer some of the questions that are coming up as a result of these detections. We will update reports of ongoing detections in the toggle box above, and provide additional guidance as information develops. You can also keep track of ongoing detections of HPAI in mammalian farmed animal species at the USDA’s site dedicated to the subject here. To find an FAQ from the USDA on recent detections, please click here.

    What Is Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza?

    Avian influenza refers to infection caused by avian influenza Type A viruses. Virus strains are categorized as highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) or low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI). These designations refer to how the virus affects chickens and other farmed bird species. Most Type A influenza viruses are low pathogenic, found worldwide, and can frequently be found in apparently healthy migrating waterfowl and shorebirds. In domesticated birds, low pathogenic AI viruses typically have low morbidity and mortality rates. HPAI, however, carries a high morbidity and mortality rate.

    Highly pathogenic Eurasian H5 avian influenza was detected in wild birds in early 2022 after not being detected in a wild bird in the United States since 2016, and shortly afterward, HPAI was detected at a commercial turkey farm. Since the start of the current outbreak, every state except Hawaii has had confirmed cases of HPAI in wild and/or domesticated birds. For more information on current cases, please refer to the USDA APHIS website.

    Where Can I Find Your Existing Advice On HPAI?

    You can learn more about HPAI in birds in our full resource on the subject here. If you need a quick refresher or some easily digestible information, you can find our FAQ on the subject here. For infographics that you can use at your sanctuary to remind staff and volunteers of precautions you should take, you can find those here.

    What Are The Recent Developments With HPAI In Domesticated Ruminants And Camelids?

    As of this writing, there have been reports of HPAI in domesticated ruminants and camelids in 13 U.S. states, and 157 herds have been affected. Almost all of the confirmed detections have been in cows, and all of the detections in cows have been at dairy operations. Because of this, almost all of the available information pertains to “dairy cows.” Testing indicates that the virus affecting cows is the same virus responsible for the ongoing outbreak in birds (H5N1, Eurasian lineage goose/Guangdong clade 2.3.4.4b). 

    While these are the first reported cases in domesticated ruminants and camelids in the U.S., they are not the first cases in mammals. Since 2022, the USDA has tracked over 200 detections of HPAI in mammals (these detections have been almost entirely in wild species, but domesticated cats have also been affected). You can read more about HPAI detections in wild mammalian species here, and check out CDC guidance for veterinarians handling and evaluating potentially exposed domesticated cats here.

    How Does HPAI Affect Domesticated Ruminants And Camelids?

    Because this is an evolving situation, it’s hard to say with certainty how HPAI might manifest in a domesticated ruminant or camelid. Because most cases have been in “dairy cows,” there is much more information about the clinical signs cows with HPAI may present. Cows with HPAI may develop a poor appetite, lethargy, dehydration, fever, and abnormal feces that is tacky or loose. In lactating cows, clinical signs include a sudden drop in milk production, and more severely affected cows produced colostrum-like milk that was thick and discolored. According to the American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA), in affected herds, clinical signs have been reported in less than 10% of the cows. Most affected cows have reportedly recovered with supportive care. 

    Currently, there has only been one group of goats confirmed to have been affected (and as mentioned above, these goats lived on the same premise as birds who tested positive for HPAI). Newborn kids who were born just days after the birds on the property had been killed were most severely affected. Ten goat kids, ranging from 5-9 days old, died and were confirmed to be positive for HPAI. According to the USDA, affected goat kids developed neurological signs including incoordination, seizures, blindness, inability to stand, and difficulty nursing. Only half of the kids tested for HPAI were positive, suggesting other factors may have played a role in the disease. Adult goats on the property tested negative for HPAI.

    As with goats, currently, there has only been one group of camelids confirmed to have been affected by HPAI, and this occurred in a group of alpacas living on the same premise as infected birds. According to the Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy (CIDRAP), only 4 of 18 alpacas tested positive for HPAI, and it appears there have been no mortalities. Affected alpacas showed signs of weakness, depression, nasal discharge and other mild respiratory signs, and also experienced abortions/stillbirths.

    Can Domesticated Ruminants And Camelids Spread HPAI To Other Non-Human Animals?

    Though experts were initially skeptical of the possibility of cow-to-cow transmission, the USDA announced evidence of cow-to-cow transmission on March 29, 2024, which the AVMA states is likely through mechanical means. Additionally, current evidence suggests that the virus has spread from premises with affected cows to premises with farmed bird species, likely due to the movement of humans, vehicles, etc.

    Cats are a species that were previously known to be susceptible to HPAI, and the CDC has reported that at affected dairies, cats who drank unpasteurized infective milk and colostrum developed fatal systemic infections. While ingestion of deceased infective wild birds cannot be ruled out as the cause of infection, evidence suggests spread between cows and cats.

    Can Domesticated Ruminants And Camelids Spread HPAI To Humans?

    On April 1st, 2024, the CDC reported that a human had contracted HPAI from a cow in Texas. Currently, the CDC has reported four confirmed human cases related to the current outbreak in cows. All cases have been in dairy workers who had direct contact with infected cows (but none of the cases are related). While three of the cases presented as eye infections, one of the humans affected developed respiratory symptoms more typical with influenza. Before this, there has been one case recorded in the U.S. of HPAI being transmitted from birds to a human, which occurred in Colorado in 2022. However, there have been additional reports globally, and the CDC recently announced three presumptive positive cases in workers at a Colorado poultry facility.

    You can find more information about cases of avian influenza in humans in this update from the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention.

    What Legal Measures Are Being Implemented To Control The Spread Of HPAI In Domesticated Ruminants?

    Thus far, in the U.S. the federal government’s policy in response to the detection of  HPAI in farmed bird species has been the mandatory killing of all farmed birds on affected premises (“depopulation”). Exceptions have been made in certain cases involving “exotic” birds, often in “zoo” contexts. With respect to farmed birds, there have also been some exceptions to this general federal policy in certain states based on the distinctions that a particular state may draw between “companion” birds versus “poultry.” Please note that when it comes to birds, these exceptions have been few and far between, and cannot be counted upon to protect your avian residents in the event that HPAI is detected in your area. To get an overview of the complexities of overlapping federal and state law, you can review our resource on HPAI and the law, which you can find here

    In contrast to the response that the USDA mandates for birds, its response to detections of HPAI in domesticated ruminants and camelids has been very different. The USDA has stated they “do not anticipate the need to depopulate dairy herds.” Instead, policy thus far appears to involve a combination of requiring testing prior to interstate transport of “dairy cows,” as well as an opt-in program for dairy farm operators so that the USDA can learn more about the virus and how it affects “dairy cows.” 

    On April 25, 2024, the USDA issued a Federal Order Requiring Testing for and Reporting of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in Livestock. An FAQ summarizing the requirements of this order is available here. In essence, it requires testing of “lactating dairy” cows for HPAI prior to any interstate travel. If they receive a negative test result, that result is valid for seven days, and the cows may receive a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI), allowing them to travel interstate during that window. 

    In guidance clarifying this order, the USDA specified that “dairy cows” are those who are raised for the primary purpose of milk production. “Lactating” means that the cows are in one of the “lactation phases” (early, mid, or late) of their “production cycle.” 

    Testing prior to travel must be done by an approved National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN) laboratory. Any positive results must be reported by labs and by state veterinarians to the USDA, and the “owners” of these cows must also submit epidemiological and tracing information about them. Cows who have tested positive cannot be moved interstate unless they have completed a 30-day waiting period, and then been re-tested with negative results. 

    These requirements do NOT apply to the intrastate transport of cows, which is governed by state-specific regulations. 

    On May 30, 2024, the USDA announced that it was also setting up a Voluntary H5N1 Dairy Herd Status Pilot Program which would offer an alternative to the mandatory testing required by the Federal Order issued in April. Under this program, “owners” with herds that tested negative for three weeks in a row are then only required to conduct weekly tests on bulk milk from their herds, and can then transport their cows as they prefer without additional individual testing. 

    What Does All This Mean For Sanctuaries?

    There is still much we do not know, but what is clear is that HPAI continues to be a major threat. While it is certainly concerning that domesticated ruminants and camelids are now being affected, it’s important to remember that farmed bird species face a two-pronged threat from this disease. Not only are they at risk from the disease itself (which carries a high mortality rate in birds such as chickens and turkeys), but they are also at risk of regional efforts to control disease spread via the compulsory killing of birds on an affected premise (for more information on on the legal implications of an HPAI detection in domesticated birds on your property, check out our comprehensive resource here, or you can find our FAQ on the subject of HPAI and the law here). Given the significant risk to farmed bird species, caregivers must continue to take appropriate steps to protect their avian residents (which you can read more about here). These recent developments indicate that we now have to also consider the possibility of newly rescued ruminant or camelid residents bringing HPAI onto sanctuary grounds. In addition to the risk of the virus being spread to your avian residents and causing serious illness, we simply don’t know what a positive detection in a domesticated ruminant or camelid would mean for avian residents on the property (in terms of government response).

    Epidemiological investigations in Michigan suggest that transmission between dairies and between diaries and poultry facilities is likely due to the movement of people, vehicles, etc. Therefore, sanctuaries also have to consider the risk of humans, vehicles, etc. that travel to farms with domesticated ruminants or camelids (or birds) bringing the virus into sanctuary spaces. Robust biosecurity continues to be critical.

    What Should Sanctuaries Do?

    Given that this is still a developing situation, one of the most important things to do is to stay informed. We recommend watching for updates from the USDA, AVMA, and your state’s board of animal health. Additionally, we recommend contacting your veterinarian for more information. They will likely be your best source of information and can offer more specific guidance as the situation develops based on the specifics of your sanctuary and your region. You can also pay attention to the CDC’s National Wastewater Surveillance System, which collects and displays data on detections of Influenza A in wastewater. Current monitoring methods cannot differentiate between H5N1 and other influenza A virus subtypes and also cannot determine the source of the virus, but this surveillance program might alert you to the fact that influenza A has been found in your area, in which case it might be wise to ramp up your biosecurity measures.

    We encourage sanctuaries to revisit their biosecurity plan (or to create one if they haven’t already). If you care for birds, you absolutely need to be taking steps to protect your residents. If your animal sanctuary is located in an area where avian influenza is currently a concern (in birds or in domesticated camelids or ruminants), keeping detailed, accurate records of the steps you’re taking to prevent its spread at your organization is critical, should the virus be detected nearby. To help organizations stay organized in their HPAI recordkeeping, we’ve developed a simple spreadsheet with sections for some of the key tasks caregivers must perform to keep their avian residents safe. Check out our HPAI biosecurity plan and checklist for more information on these strategies!

    In addition to preventing direct and indirect contact between wild and domesticated birds, if you currently house avian and mammal species together (or if you give them separate access to the same spaces), we recommend you take immediate steps to house them separately.

    Aside from the initial “spillover event” in which the virus spread from wild birds to cows, there is currently no genomic or epidemiologic evidence that wild birds are spreading H5N1 to cows. However, according to the USDA’s epidemiological brief updated on June 8, 2024, this possibility cannot be ruled out. While it’s unlikely that sanctuaries can prevent all direct and indirect contact between their ruminant residents and wild birds, it’s a good idea to look at your current practices and see if there are things you can do to lessen this exposure. For example, consider if there are ways you can protect drinking water and hay from possible contamination from wild birds. Even if you can’t fully exclude wild birds, perhaps you can take steps to lessen the risk. For example, if you have a water trough under a tree, perhaps you can move it to another area where wild birds are less likely to congregate (and possibly defecate in the water). Ponds and other natural bodies of water are potential sources of exposure, so it’s wise to restrict your residents’ access to these water sources. 

    Because the current evidence suggests cow-to-cow is possible, sanctuaries should revisit their intake and quarantine procedures for new residents. We recommend talking to your veterinarian about measures you should consider implementing to reduce the risk of bringing HPAI into your sanctuary. Depending on where you are located, this may mean seriously considering temporarily suspending intake. 

    The case in goats suggests that very young neonates may be most vulnerable, but without knowing more about the care these goat kids received (for example, did they receive colostrum, were they born into a clean environment, did they receive immediate veterinary care, etc.), it’s hard to know what other factors may have contributed to the development of disease. That said, when it comes to resident health, we always suggest erring on the side of caution, so if you rescue very young neonatal ruminants or camelids or are caring for pregnant individuals, we recommend talking to your veterinarian about additional measures you can implement to reduce the chance of vulnerable babies being exposed to HPAI. Because milk from infected cows contains HPAI virus, it’s important to think carefully about the milk/milk replacer you feed babies at your sanctuary to avoid potential exposure. Current evidence indicates that pasteurization inactivates the virus.

    The CDC continues to say that the risk to humans is low but acknowledges that folks who work closely with “poultry” and “livestock” may be at an increased risk of exposure to HPAI. We recommend sanctuaries consult with their veterinarian regarding measures to implement to protect their personnel and other humans coming into sanctuary spaces. At a minimum, folks should observe careful hygiene (including handwashing) and should wear PPE when working with residents who are showing signs of illness, as well as when working with newly rescued residents. We always recommend keeping visitors away from sick and quarantined residents, but this is even more critical now. 

    You can review the CDC’s interim recommendations for preventing exposure here and their updated guidance for worker protection here.

    Pertinent Resources From The Open Sanctuary Project:

    Advanced Topics In Resident Health: Avian Influenza (Vet Reviewed)

    Avian Influenza FAQ 

    Avian Influenza Infographic

    Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza: Your Sanctuary And The Law

    Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza And The Law: FAQ For Animal Sanctuaries And Rescues

    HPAI Record-Keeping Template

    HPAI Biosecurity Plan & Checklist

    Biosecurity Part 2: Creating And Implementing A Biosecurity Plan

    Establishing Safe And Effective Quarantine And Isolation Protocols For Your Animal Sanctuary

    SOURCES:
    Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) Detections in Livestock | United States Department Of Agriculture (Non-Compassionate Source)

    Detections of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza | USDA APHIS (Non-Compassionate Source)

    Avian Influenza | World Organisation For Animal Health (Non-Compassionate Source)

    Detection Of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza In Dairy Herds: Frequently Asked Questions | U.S. Department of Agriculture (Non-Compassionate Source)

    Avian Influenza Virus Type A (H5N1) In U.S. Dairy Cattle | American Veterinary Medical Association (Non-Compassionate Source)

    Avian Flu Detected For First Time In US Livestock | Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy  (Non-Compassionate Source)

    Current H5N1 Bird Flu Situation in Dairy Cows | Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (Non-Compassionate Source)

    Federal Order Requiring Testing for and Reporting of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in Livestock | USDA/APHIS (Non-Compassionate Source)

    Federal Order to Assist with Developing a Baseline of Critical Information and Limiting the Spread of H5N1 in Dairy Cattle: Frequently Asked Questions  | USDA/APHIS (Non-Compassionate Source)

    Clarification to Inquiries Received on April 24 Federal Order | USDA/APHIS (Non-Compassionate Source)

    USDA Announces $824 Million in New Funding to Protect Livestock Health; Launches Voluntary H5N1 Dairy Herd Status Pilot Program | USDA/APHIS (Non-Compassionate Source)

    U.S. Case of Human Avian Influenza A(H5) Virus Reported | Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (Non-Compassionate Source)

    Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza A (H5N1) Virus Infection Reported in a Person in the U.S. | Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (Non-Compassionate Source)

    Technical Report: Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza A(H5N1) Viruses | Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (Non-Compassionate Source)

    Updated as of June 8, 2024 1 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1 Genotype B3.13 in Dairy Cattle: National Epidemiologic Brief | USDA APHIS (Non-Compassionate Source)

    Page 1 of 10 2024 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (H5N1) – Michigan Dairy Herd and Poultry Flock Summary | USDA APHIS (Non-Compassionate Source)

    Delegates Updated On HPAI Response | AVMA News (Non-Compassionate Source)

    H5N1 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) In Livestock Information For Small Ruminant (Sheep And Goat) And Camelid Stakeholders | USDA APHIS (Non-Compassionate Source)

    More Evidence Pasteurization Inactivates H5N1 Avian Flu Virus In Milk | CIDRAP (Non-Compassionate Source)

    CDC Reports Fourth Human Case of H5 Bird Flu Tied to Dairy Cow Outbreak | CDC News Room (Non-Compassionate Source)

    Colorado Reports Three Presumptive Positive H5 Cases in Poultry Workers | CDC News (Non-Compassionate Source)

    Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza A(H5N1) Clade 2.3.4.4b Virus Infection In Domestic Dairy Cattle And Cats, United States, 2024  | Emerging Infectious Diseases, Volume 30 (Non-Compassionate Source)

    Non-Compassionate Source?
    If a source includes the (Non-Compassionate Source) tag, it means that we do not endorse that particular source’s views about animals, even if some of their insights are valuable from a care perspective. See a more detailed explanation here.

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