HPAI Outside the Farm: Concerns heighten as outbreaks continue to grow

High Path Avian Flu has been a headline for more than two years now, but its recent attention with infections in dairy cattle has once again rattled the ag industry.

Cattle infections are unique because they have not required mass cullings like in the poultry sector. Health experts also do not believe wild birds are spreading the virus between herds like they do with avian flocks. Herd sizes are also considerably smaller compared to poultry houses.

While the cattle numbers have been closely watched, cases among birds are still popping up. Over the last month, several large outbreaks have been reported by APHIS resulting in the culling of millions of birds. In Iowa, nearly 4.3 million birds have been culled. In Minnesota, around 1.5 million birds have been depopulated. In total, more than 6 million birds have been confirmed at infected locations over the last month.

It is now just birds and dairy cattle feeling the effects of the virus. Since the outbreak began back in 2022, four humans have contracted the virus. One case was in April of that year following exposure at a poultry facility, and three cases were this year starting back in April.

Other mammals have fallen victim, too. A map from USDA shows different animals across the country have tested positive since May of 2022, with most being fatal. They include mammals like bobcats, seals, minks, squirrels, and raccoons. The most recent was a red fox in Wisconsin. Scientists are still trying to figure out why some become more sick than others.

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