Minnesota goat tests positive for avian influenza

The goat was living next to an avian influenza-infected poultry flock
calendar icon 26 March 2024
clock icon 3 minute read

A Stevens County, Minnesota goat kid residing on a farm with a Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI)-positive poultry flock tested positive for the same virus, according to a press release from the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. The outbreak was detected on March 20. 

This is the first US detection of HPAI in a domestic ruminant (cattle, sheep, goats, and their relatives). All poultry on the property were already quarantined from the February HPAI detection. Following the confirmation of HPAI in the goat, the Board quarantined all other species on the premises. The board is working with the US Department of Agriculture (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 state veterinarian 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 a backyard poultry flock was depopulated due to HPAI 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 United States have become ill following contact with mammals infected with this virus.

Learn more about avian influenza.

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