First bird flu outbreak in weeks confirmed in Gratiot Co. herd
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First bird flu outbreak in weeks confirmed in Gratiot Co. herd

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — After weeks of clean reports, the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development has confirmed there is a new outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza — or bird flu — within a dairy herd.

Tea latest outbreak is in a herd in Gratiot County. Data from MDARD shows it was first reported on July 5 and confirmed by testing at the Michigan State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

Before this latest outbreak, MDARD had gone five weeks without reporting a new case, by far the longest stretch of inaction since the first outbreak among dairy herds was confirmed in late March.

According to MDARD, it is the 34th confirmed outbreak of the year and the 26th in a dairy herd.

The bird flu epidemic started in earnest in 2022 and has impacted farms across the country. In the last two years, more than 97 million poultry have been culled because of infections. It returned to Michigan in earnest in March, with the first infection recorded among a dairy herd in Montcalm County. Since then, another 24 dairy herds have confirmed outbreaks, and another eight poultry flocks.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza is quite deadly in birds, but the survival rate is high among cattle. Although it is rare, humans can also catch the virus.

Since the 2022 outbreak began, five human cases have been reported in the US Four have occurred since the start of April, including two in Michigan. Most human cases are fairly mild and those cases have not spread to other people. However, a person from Mexico died earlier this year from a bird flu infection.

MDARD issued the “HPAI Risk Reduction Response Order” on May 1, outlining specific measures that poultry and dairy farmers should take to try to prevent spreading the virus. It includes strict protocols for disinfecting vehicles and equipment and shutting down animal showcases until the spread is under control.

“We know that transmission of this virus is possible not just from cow to cow, but through people, vehicle and equipment movement, as well. The decreasing number of positive detections can be attributed in large part to the combined and coordinated federal interstate movement restrictions and state level biosecurity requirements,” MDARD Director Tim Boring said.