March 22, 2024

2 Min Read

A goat in Stevens County, Minnesota, has tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), becoming the first U.S. detection of HPAI in a domestic ruminant. The goat contracted the virus after a poultry flock on the same premises was depopulated in February due to the virus. Following the confirmation of HPAI in the goat, the Minnesota Board of Animal Health quarantined all other species on the premises. The Board said is working with USDA to investigate the transmission of the virus in this case.

“This finding is significant because, while the spring migration is definitely a higher risk transmission period for poultry, it highlights the possibility of the virus infecting other animals on farms with multiple species,” said Minnesota State Veterinarian Dr. Brian Hoefs. “Thankfully, research to-date has shown mammals appear to be dead-end hosts, which means they’re unlikely to spread HPAI further.”

Earlier this month the owner notified the Board of unusual deaths of newly kidded goats on the property where the backyard poultry flock had been depopulated in February. The goats and poultry had access to the same space, including a shared water source. One of the goat carcasses was taken to the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (VDL), where it tested positive for influenza A. The National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) later confirmed H5N1 HPAI, which is the same virus circulating in the national outbreak that began in 2022. Samples from the adult goats were negative for HPAI and all appear healthy; no more sick goat kids have been reported since March 11.

HPAI has been previously diagnosed in other mammalian species such as skunks, dogs and cats. Animals with weakened or immature immune systems, like the goat kids in this case, are at higher risk of contracting disease. There has been limited experimental data on HPAI infection in ruminants, and there are no prior reports of natural HPAI infection in goats. The USDA has tracked more than 200 detections of HPAI in mammals across the country since the start of the 2022 HPAI outbreak.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) provided recommendations for personal protective equipment and is monitoring the health of those in direct contact with the infected goats. Anyone who develops respiratory or gastrointestinal symptoms after exposure to the goats may be voluntarily tested for avian influenza and other respiratory pathogens. The risk to the public is extremely low, and any risk of infection is limited to people in direct contact with infected animals. To date, no people in the U.S. have become ill following contact with mammals infected with this virus.

Biosecurity is the first line of defense for anyone to protect their animals from disease and includes simple measures like cleaning equipment and housing regularly, separating livestock from wild animals, and calling your veterinarian when animals appear sick.

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