Avian flu could infect Pennsylvania dairy cattle

People all over the country are getting avian flu, which is short for highly deadly avian influenza. Pennsylvania has not yet had a proven case, but the state is doing everything it can to make sure that doesn’t happen.

In early April, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture put out-of-state dairy farms with bird flu cases under quarantine and put limits on their activities. According to Grant Gulibon of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, the move was made to stop the virus from spreading to dairy fields in Pennsylvania before it did.

For extra safety’s sake, the state is limiting the movement of cattle coming from other states and making any groups that might end up coming into Pennsylvania go through pre-movement testing, Gulibon said.

Since it was found in Texas, the Farm Bureau has been keeping an eye on the virus. The owner of Barrens View Farm in York County, Dan Baumgardner, first heard about the problem a few weeks ago.

“At that time, they didn’t know it was bird flu; they were just saying they were having trouble with something in Texas and New Mexico that was making dairy cows sick, but they didn’t know what it was,” Baumgardner said.

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Avian flu doesn’t kill dairy cows, but it can make it hard for them to make milk normally. Waterfowl are wild birds that can carry the virus and accidentally touch dairy cows.

„If you put cattle out on range, they might come into contact with geese and ducks. But even in the barns, sparrows and sometimes pigeons would fly in and out,” Baumgardner explained. Even though dairy cows are at risk of getting sick, it probably won’t spread to people.

Gulibon said, “The pasteurization process kills viruses like HPAI so they don’t get into the milk or dairy supply.” The Farm Bureau tells farmers to be careful and report any strange behavior from their dairy cattle.

Baumgardner said, “If it does come, I don’t think it’s the end of the world. Some cows do get better, but you might have to sell others.” The Bureau and Department of Agriculture are still keeping an eye on the spread of viruses, so there is no set date. However, they are posting information online.

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