Minnesota became the 11th state to report avian flu in dairy cows Thursday, a day after Iowa announced a herd had been infected there.

Minnesota's Board of Animal Health said H5N1 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) has been confirmed in a dairy herd in Benton County in the central part of the state. 

“Over the weekend, the producer noticed clinical signs in only a handful of cows,” the board said. “The next day more than 40 cows had signs of fever. Samples collected from sick cows in the herd on Monday were sent to the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory where the virus was detected. The USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories confirmed the results last night.”

Echoing comments made by Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship Secretary Mike Naig on Wednesday, Minnesota State Veterinarian Brian Hoefs said, “We knew it was only a matter of time before this detection would reach our doorstep.”

Hoefs went on to say “it’s important for dairy farmers to follow the example of this herd and test sick cows. The more the animal health community can learn about this virus today through testing and research, the better we can equip ourselves to prevent infections tomorrow.”

“Dairy farmers should monitor their herd and contact their veterinarian immediately if cows appear sick. The board will report any new detections and updates on cow cases in Minnesota on its website.”

On Wednesday, Iowa became the 10th state on a list that also includes Texas, Idaho, New Mexico, South Dakota, North Carolina, Kansas, Colorado, Michigan and Ohio. USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has confirmed bird flu in more than 80 herds. 

Neither Iowa nor Minnesota said it had conducted enough testing to determine how the cows became infected.

In Iowa, tests conducted by the state and USDA confirmed the detection in a herd in O’Brien County, IDALS said Wednesday. 

The state agency said it would “soon be announcing additional response measures,” and Iowa Ag Secretary Mike Naig said, “Given the spread of [HPAI] within dairy cattle in many other states, it is not a surprise that we would have a case given the size of our dairy industry in Iowa.”

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The agency also said that “genomic sequencing of the virus that was detected at [a] Sioux County farm announced on May 28 was determined by the [National Veterinary Services Laboratory] in Ames to be consistent with the variant identified in affected dairies in other states.” 

The Sioux County layer operation has about 4.2 million chickens. The agency also said sequencing isn’t completed on the virus detected in a turkey flocks in Cherokee County or on the dairy in O’Brien County.

“Epidemiological investigations are ongoing to try to determine how the virus was introduced into the flocks and herd,” the agency said.

“Poultry producers and dairy farmers should immediately take steps to harden their biosecurity defenses, limit unnecessary visitors, and report symptomatic birds or cattle to the department,” Naig said. “This remains an evolving situation and we will continue to be in close communication with stakeholders, USDA, and other states as we evaluate our response. Our top priority is to protect our livestock and the farmers and people who care for them.” 

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