Bird flu detected in Benton County dairy cows

ESCALON, CA - DECEMBER 31: A Holstein cow is shown after being auctioned off at the Escalon Livestock Market December 31, 2003, in Escalon, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Bird flu, known by the medical term H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), was detected in a Benton County dairy cow herd after an outbreak over the weekend, according to state officials. 

State officials say the farmer initially noticed "clinical signs" in just a few of the cows, but that number grew to more than 40 cows that showed signs of fever the next day. Samples were then sent to USDA labs, where the results were reportedly confirmed Wednesday night.

READ MORE: 1st human death of bird flu strain H5N2 confirmed, WHO says

"We knew it was only a matter of time before this detection would reach our doorstep," Minnesota State Veterinarian Dr. Brian Hoefs in a written statement. "It’s important for dairy farmers to follow the example of this herd and test sick cows. The more the animal health community can learn about this virus today through testing and research, the better we can equip ourselves to prevent infections tomorrow."

Officials say the entire herd was quarantined in response and can be retested 30 days after the last positive result in order to be released. 

The Minnesota Board of Animal Health said the risk to the public from the virus remains low at this time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says pasteurized dairy products are still safe to consume. 

Bird flu and cows in Minnesota

Farmers are advised to monitor their cows and contact their veterinarian immediately if any cows appear sick. They must also dispose of any milk that comes from sick animals.

The Minnesota Board of Animal Health also shared the following advice to help farmers reduce the risk of disease spreading onto or off their farms:

  • Consider stopping or delaying any cow movements and test for H5N1 before you move animals
  • Milk any sick cows last, after you milk your healthy cows
  • Keep feed covered, clean up spills right away
  • Provide a clean source of water that's secure from wildlife, especially waterfowl
  • Talk to your veterinarian if you notice your animals are sick

READ MORE: Bird flu virus found in milk but FDA says it's safe to drink

State officials say there has also been a rise in poultry cases with eight reported sites in Minnesota being confirmed positive in the month of May. Another case of bird flu was detected in a Meeker County turkey flock late last year. 

Any updates on new detections can be found on the Minnesota Board of Animal Health's website in addition to information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

READ MORE: Bird flu in cows: 1 in 5 pasteurized milk samples had traces of virus, FDA says

Farmers can also request PPE from the Minnesota Department of Health or call the organization at 651-201-5414 to ask any questions about the disease.