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First confirmed case of bird flu found in Wyoming dairy cattle

Brown dairy calves try to balance as they sway with the momentum of interstate travel.
Courtesy the Animal Welfare Institute
A group of calves crammed together in a travel trailer as they make a grueling 19-hour trip from Minnesota to New Mexico.

The Wyoming Livestock Board announced last week that bird flu has been found in a herd of dairy cattle in Wyoming. It's the first confirmed case of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in the Cowboy State.

Wyoming State Veterinarian Hallie Hasel said dairy producers should watch their cattle closely. Symptoms include a drop in milk production, loss of appetite, changes in manure consistency, thickened milk and low-grade fever. Producers should contact their herd veterinarian if they notice any symptoms.

“The primary concern with this diagnosis is on dairy production losses," Hasel said in the press release. "The disease has been associated with decreased milk production. The risk to cattle is minimal and the risk to human health remains very low.”

In April, the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) warned that unregulated interstate transport of young calves could encourage the spread of the disease. After leading an investigation into the allegedly common practice, in which large-scale dairy operations transport young calves over long distances, the Institute petitioned the USDA.

Shortly thereafter, the USDA issued a federal order to prevent the spread of HPAI. As of April 29, dairy producers are required to test their cattle at an approved National Animal Health Laboratory Network lab before travel. There are only two labs in this network in Wyoming; both are in Laramie.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) said that a second human case of bird flu had been confirmed, according to a press release from late May. The case was reported in Michigan. As with the first confirmed case, which was found in Texas, the patient worked on a dairy farm, and had an eye infection.

Director of the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, Doug Miyamoto, said that the USDA and CDC emphasized the pasteurization process kills bacteria and viruses like HPAI.

"These milk and dairy products are safe to consume,” said Miyamoto. “This is a very low risk to human health and the WDA will continue our normal regulatory efforts of the commercial dairy industry in Wyoming to help ensure the continued safety of the dairy products under inspection.”

This reporting was made possible by a grant from the Corporation For Public Broadcasting, supporting state government coverage in the state. Wyoming Public Media and Jackson Hole Community Radio are partnering to cover state issues both on air and online.

David Dudley is an award-winning journalist who has written for The Guardian, The Christian Science Monitor, High Country News, WyoFile, and the Wyoming Truth, among many others. David was a Guggenheim Crime in America Fellow at John Jay College from 2020-2023. During the past 10 years, David has covered city and state government, business, economics and public safety beats for various publications. He lives in Cheyenne with his family.
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