By Krissa Welshans, Livestock Editor, Feedstuffs

After collaborating with veterinarians, allied organizations, state and federal agencies, diagnostic laboratories and animal health officials on the 2024 emerging disease event affecting dairy cattle, the American Association of Bovine Practitioners (AABP) will reference the newly emerging cattle disease that has stemmed from highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) as Bovine Influenza A Virus, the organization announced in a letter.

“The virus isolated from affected animals in herds matching the clinical signs has been identified as avian influenza virus Type A H5N1. The virus causes highly pathogenic avian influenza in birds, however the disease syndrome in cattle does not cause high morbidity or mortality as it does in birds. The AABP does not believe that this disease should be referenced as ‘HPAI in cattle’ or ‘bird flu in cattle’ due to these differences,” wrote AABP Executive Director Fred Gingrich, DVM, and President Michael Capel, DVM.

The AABP said it will call the disease Bovine Influenza A Virus (BIAV) in its messaging and resources and encouraged other organizations, state animal health officials, diagnostic labs and state and federal agencies to use the name also to be consistent in distinguishing the disease between the species.

“We believe it is important for the public to understand the difference to maintain confidence in the safety and accessibility of beef and dairy products to the consumers,” the letter concluded.

To date, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has confirmed the detection of BIAV in dairy herds in Texas, Kansas, Michigan, New Mexico, Idaho and Ohio.

Federal and state agencies continue to conduct additional testing from sick animals and in unpasteurized clinical milk samples from sick animals, as well as viral genome sequencing, to assess whether HPAI or another unrelated illness may be underlying any symptoms. Clinically sick dairy cattle from affected herds range from 1% – 20%, with an average of 10% of the milking herd affected. There are no confirmed reports of death loss in dairy cattle directly attributed to these detections. Most sick cows begin recovering within a few days.

Wild migratory birds are believed to be the source of infection, with pigeons, blackbirds, and grackles specifically found deceased on the Texas farms. However, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) said the spread of the illness among the Michigan herd also indicates that HPAI transmission between cattle cannot be ruled out.

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