Few dairy farmers seek bird flu funds from USDA

Only a handful of U.S. farms — 18 in all — are accepting federal funds to quash the outbreak of the H5N1 avian flu virus among dairy herds that began three months ago, according to the Agriculture Department. (No paywall)

H5N1 virus was spread by cattle, people and shared equipment

After the H5N1 avian flu virus jumped from birds to dairy cattle in Texas last December, it was spread across the country by infected cows, contaminated machinery, and people who inadvertently carried the virus on their clothes and footwear from farm to farm, said USDA scientists on Thursday. Officials said the risk to the public was low because the virus has not shown signs of adapting to humans. “We should be, as we are, alert, not alarmed,” said Nirav Shah, the CDC’s principal deputy director.

Block sales of raw milk that may contain H5N1 virus, FDA asks states

To reduce the risk of bird flu infections, state health officials should bar the sale of raw milk to consumers if it contains the H5N1 avian flu virus, said the Food and Drug Administration on Thursday. Although the FDA has long warned that raw milk is a high-risk food that may carry disease-causing pathogens, more than 30 states allow the sale of unpasteurized milk from the farm, in retail stores, or through so-called cow shares.

Bird flu infects dairy herd in Iowa, 10th state to be hit

A dairy herd in northwestern Iowa is infected with the H5N1 avian flu virus, said state agriculture secretary Mike Naig on Wednesday. He called on dairy and poultry farmers to “harden their biosecurity defenses” against the virus.

‘Absolute barrier’ against spread of bird flu virus is impossible, says Califf

The agriculture and food industry is entering an era of stepped-up precautions against the spread of the H5N1 bird flu virus now that it has appeared in cattle for the first time, said FDA commissioner Robert Califf at a Senate hearing on Wednesday. “Unfortunately, there is no absolute barrier that can be created,” he said.

USDA, DHS dedicate agro-defense lab approved in 9/11 aftermath

Two decades after the September 11 attacks shaped American resolve against terror, the federal government dedicated a $1.25 billion agro-defense laboratory in eastern Kansas on Wednesday to protect the U.S. food supply from zoonotic animal diseases. The National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility will conduct research on dangerous livestock diseases, such as foot-and-mouth disease, and develop countermeasures, such as vaccines.

Cost of fighting bird flu outbreaks tops $670 million

The Agriculture Department promotes comprehensive biosecurity measures on the farm as the "best and prudent approach" to combat bird flu outbreaks that have killed 58.6 million birds in domestic flocks in 13 months. The viral disease drove up egg prices during 2022 and, after a respite early this year, egg prices are on the rise again with the approach of Easter.

Avian flu, ‘a continuing threat,’ has claimed 14 million birds

To prevent spread of a deadly poultry disease, the Agriculture Department urged bird owners on Thursday to practice good biosecurity and to consider keeping their birds indoors all day. Fourteen million birds in domestic flocks have died in outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza since Feb. 8.

U.S. gives short shrift to agro-defense and the risk of zoonotic diseases

The average American consumes more than a half-pound of meat each day, yet the country devotes limited thought or funding to protecting its livestock from diseases that could disrupt production or infect humans, said former Sen. Joe Lieberman during a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing.

The long watch for bird flu

After the devastating bird flu epidemic in the Midwest earlier this year, the disease has not been seen in the country since Utah wildlife officials found an infected mallard at Farmington Bay on Great Salt Lake on July 31. State and federal officials are testing thousands of wild birds each month to identify hot spots for the virus as an "early warning" to producers.

Bird-flu plan relies on speedy culling, vaccine on standby

After the "incredible scope" of the worst bird flu epidemic ever to hit the nation earlier this year, the USDA's plan for reducing the risk of an outbreak this fall includes swift culling of infected flocks with a bird-flu vaccine available "as a possible adjunct to, and not a replacement for, a future eradication effort." The usual response to discovery of highly pathogenic avian influenza is to quarantine the affected farm and its surroundings and kill the infected flock to prevent spread of the virus.

Stringent biosecurity crucial in preventing bird flu, says USDA

In an updated report on the worst-ever bird flu epidemic to infect U.S. poultry flocks, the government says "comprehensive and stringent biosecurity practices remain crucial to reducing the risk of HPAI [highly pathogenic avian influenza] infection."

Manage wildlife to reduce bird-flu risk, USDA tells producers

In a new flyer on biosecurity, the USDA tells poultry producers, "The addition of simple wildlife management practices around your farm" can enhance the biosecurity shield against avian influenza.

Biosecurity lapses helped spread of avian influenza epidemic

The worst avian flu epidemic ever to hit U.S. poultry farms was spread in part by lapses in biosecurity among producers as well as "environmental factors," said the government in an initial report on the disease that will depress table egg and turkey production into 2016. USDA's animal health agency said it plans to meet with industry and state officials in July to discuss security standards.

China issues new five-year certificate for its GE rice

The world's largest rice grower and consumer, China, renewed the biosafety certificates for five additional years for two varieties of genetically engineered rice developed within the country, says Reuters.

Rampant fungus in salamanders raises biosecurity issues

Scientists say a fungus that has devastated salamanders in Europe could easily spread to the United States, said the New York Times, quoting researchers who called for stricter biosecurity rules.

Pig blood in feed is unlikely to spread deadly hog disease

The World Organization for Animal Health says pig blood products are unlikely to spread the deadly Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus when used as a feed ingredient.