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Bird flu detected in cows in three more Michigan counties, agriculture department says

Michigan dairy herds are urged to increase their biosecurity efforts as the bird flu spreads to four Michigan counties.

The recent detection of highly pathogenic avian influenza, commonly known as bird flu, has been confirmed in three additional dairy herds in Michigan counties: Ionia, Isabella, and Ottawa, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development said Friday. That brought the total to four affected counties, with Montcalm County the first to detect the disease in a dairy herd about two weeks earlier.

Tim Boring, director of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said Michigan's situation mirrors the outbreaks occurring in various states across the country.

Federal and state health authorities said the commercial milk supply remains safe for consumers due to stringent animal health requirements and the pasteurization process. Pasteurization involves heating liquids to high temperatures for a short period to destroy bacteria and viruses, such as influenza. In Michigan, all milk sold in stores must be pasteurized according to state law.

What does this mean for you?

  • The U.S. Food and Drug administration said there "should be no impact on the price of milk or other dairy products" because "milk loss resulting from symptomatic cattle to date is too limited to have a major impact on supply."
  • The FDA said it "does not currently have concerns about the safety and availability of pasteurized milk products, including pasteurized cheese, sold nationwide."
  • There are uncertainties around whether consuming unpasteurized milk or cheese from an infected cow can transmit the virus, but the CDC says raw milk may contain germs that pose serious health risks, regardless of whether the cow is infected. In Michigan, it is illegal to sell raw milk for human consumption in stores.
  • Health authorities say you do not need to take any special precautions to protect yourself from avian flu in food.

The state agriculture department urged farmers and backyard poultry owners this week to significantly enhance biosecurity measures to prevent the spread of the disease and protect animal health. Recommended actions include limiting access to farm areas, regularly disinfecting equipment and vehicles that come into contact with animals, and isolating new or returning animals to prevent potential disease spread within the herd.

Anyone suspecting cases of HPAI should contact MDARD immediately, the department said, at 800-292-3939 (daytime) or 517-373-0440 (after-hours).

Zena is a senior at the University of Michigan with aspirations of becoming a broadcast journalist. She is interning in the Michigan Public newsroom.
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