United States: The threat associated with bird flu has been increasing across the United States for a long time now. Recently, the health authorities of the nation outlined that the state of Colorado has been most affected by bird flu infection.

According to the recent federal data, the state has reported the highest number of cases in the month of June – compared to any other states.

As many as 26 herds across Colorado have reported cases linked to avian influenza, as of July 1. The health experts, investigating the situation, have mentioned that out of the total, 22 cases were reported during the last month and the infected herds are quarantine, along with this, four more herds recorded infection which are currently out of quarantine.

It is to be noted that all affected herds are situated in the northeastern area of the state. The health experts have mentioned that the state of Colorado have been reporting rapid as well as mysterious spread linked to Bird Flu. Along with this, they have mentioned that the surge reflects that the US health authorities and agencies are not doing enough to fight against the virus.

Reportedly, the threat linked to the infection is low among humans, but infectious disease experts have outlined that the increasing number of cases among animals is increasing the danger for humans. Such concerns have been raised by the experts because they have also anticipated that the virus could mutate and become more powerful and contagious for the people.

The concern was addressed by the state veterinarian – Dr. Maggie Baldwin, who outlined that Colorado Agriculture and Health Officials have been monitoring the situation carefully and are scrutinizing the dairies so that the possible cases are identified, and the future spread can be prevented.

She was quoted saying, “This is just a virus that likes to hang around. It’s really hard to mitigate once it’s in a sustained population. … I think if we all implement really strong biosecurity, we absolutely can prevent the spread, but it’s in a really close geographic region,” according to the reports by The Colorado Sun.

The horrifying number was reported in Colorado!

The sudden surge in the cases linked to the infection in Colorado has taken the state ahead of various states. Along with Colorado, only Iowa and Idaho have reported double-digit cases in June. According to reports, Iowa reported 12 and Idaho reported 10 cases.

Colorado’s total count of avian influenza cases since the virus first emerged in dairy cattle this spring places the state second nationwide, trailing only Idaho and narrowly surpassing Michigan. Despite this, Colorado lags significantly in dairy production compared to these states, ranking 13th in the nation for milk output in 2023, based on federal statistics.

With just over 100 dairy herds statewide, the bird flu epidemic has now afflicted one-quarter of all herds in Colorado. On a per-cow basis, Colorado’s outbreak is approximately three times more severe than Idaho’s, which has around 667,000 dairy cows in contrast to Colorado’s 201,000.

Baldwin suggested that Colorado’s robust disease detection efforts might explain the state’s high numbers. She noted that the state has invested considerable effort in disseminating information to dairy farmers, industry groups, and veterinarians.

The health expert was quoted saying, “We’re trying to really encourage early diagnostics, early reporting, and really good symptom monitoring, and I think the relationships that we’ve established in the state have allowed for producers to feel like they can come to us when they have a problem.”

Furthermore, Baldwin has mentioned that the majority of the cattle that were infected from the infection are recovering from the disease.

Baldwin conveyed that the majority of cows infected with avian influenza are recuperating from the infection. While precise figures are elusive, there have been no reports of abnormal mortality rates. However, agriculturalists are experiencing diminished productivity during infection episodes, with some cattle potentially not resuming their full milk yield.

“The escalating impact on our producers underscores their growing resolve to combat this issue and demonstrate neighborly responsibility,” Baldwin outlined.

Propagation of Avian Influenza

As the nomenclature implies, avian influenza is traditionally not a bovine ailment. Initial cross-species infections were attributed to wild birds frequenting dairy farms in the Texas panhandle.

The subsequent dissemination to multiple herds across at least twelve states was initially ascribed to the transit of cattle between farms. Federal agricultural authorities intervened by mandating testing for bovines crossing state boundaries.

Nonetheless, the persistence of the outbreak has revealed a more intricate transmission narrative.

Baldwin noted that certain infected cattle in Colorado belong to “closed herds,” where there is no ingress or egress of cattle, negating the likelihood of transmission through an introduced infected bovine. Similar observations were made by U.S. agriculture officials in several Michigan herds.

Attention has now shifted towards fomite transmission, where the virus is transported via inanimate objects. In this scenario, personnel or veterinarians traversing between herds may inadvertently carry the virus on their attire or equipment.

Baldwin mentioned that the state is collaborating with dairy operators to develop comprehensive biosecurity protocols. This encompasses extensive personal protective equipment — including disposable masks, goggles, face shields, booties, and coveralls. Additionally, it involves protocols for decontaminating vehicle tires and other equipment exiting the dairy premises.

Surveillance of Human Exposure

No human cases of avian influenza linked to bovine exposure have been identified in Colorado. Nevertheless, state and local health authorities have monitored hundreds of dairy workers for potential viral exposure.

Adhering to federal guidelines, the state is only testing individuals exhibiting flu-like symptoms. Scott Bookman, the senior director for public health readiness and response at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, reported that fewer than a dozen people have been tested, all yielding negative results.

Given that only three individuals nationwide have contracted avian influenza believed to have stemmed from infected dairy cattle — one in Texas and two in Michigan, all with minor symptoms — Bookman justified the state’s testing strategy.

“There is no current evidence to warrant broader asymptomatic testing,” he stated.

Elizabeth Carlton, an epidemiologist at the Colorado School of Public Health, concurred that the risk to the general populace remains minimal. Surveillance systems designed to detect increases in flu infections through hospital data and wastewater analysis have not raised any alarms. Pasteurized milk, available in grocery stores, is deemed safe, although raw milk may not be.

“The public’s concern should heighten if dairy farm workers become infected and transmit the virus to their families,” she noted.

Nonetheless, she emphasized that now is the opportune moment for public health agencies to ensure their testing and disease-monitoring systems are operational, enabling them to detect if the current avian influenza outbreaks in livestock evolve into a human health threat.

“For the general public, the level of concern should remain low,” she advised. “However, for public health professionals and those in the infectious disease domain, this is the critical focus at present.”

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