News, Culture and NPR for Central & Northern Michigan
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
91.7FM Alpena and WCML-TV Channel 6 Alpena are off the air. Click here to learn more.

Bird flu found in Michigan dairy herd

This is the caption.
Monika Kubala
This is the caption.

Avian influenza, also known as bird flu, has been detected in a mid-Michigan dairy herd. It marks the first time the virus has appeared in Michigan cattle.

State officials say the outbreak in Montcalm County likely has origins in Texas, where this herd was transported from. Symptoms include a drop in milk production, reduced food consumption and fevers.

Officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in a news release they’ve also received “presumptive positive” tests in herds in New Mexico, Idaho, Kansas and in Texas.

The Texas Department of State Health Services also reported a human who had direct exposure to dairy cattle was also infected with bird flu. Transmission to humans is extremely rare, but has happened in the past.

Dr. Nora Wineland is Michigan's State Veterinarian. She says research on bird flu in cattle is fairly uncharted territory. “We're still looking into understanding that better so we can give good advice to folks of how to protect their herds from this happening,” Wineland said.

Tests results from the outbreak in Michigan show that transmission of the virus between cattle cannot be ruled out, according to the USDA. Wineland says the risk of avian influenza spreading to humans remains low and that consumers should not be concerned.

“If we have a sick herd, we’re gonna separate sick animals out of that herd so that they’re not gonna pass it along to other animals," said Phil Durst, a cattle expert with Michigan State University Extension. "And then milk is pasteurized and the pasteurization of that milk would kill any pathogens that would be in the milk.”

Durst says cattle producers should isolate animals suspected of carrying the disease for 14 to 21 days and report it to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

"We have well-trained staff responding to this situation and I have the utmost confidence in our team," said Tim Boring, director of MDARD. "Our highest priorities at MDARD remain protecting our food supply and ensuring animal health. As this situation evolves, we will provide critical updates to producers, industry, and all Michiganders.”

Renae is a newsroom intern covering northwest Lower Michigan for WCMU.