Health News

New Study Reveals Intricate Dynamics of H5N1 Spread Among Dairy Cattle

Visual Representation for Bird Flu | Credits: CDC

United States: In a recent preprint study, a research team led by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) revealed that the H5N1 virus, which has affected dairy cattle across multiple states, likely circulated within the bovine population for approximately four months before being officially identified by scientists in late March. 

The study highlights significant data gaps and surveillance limitations, raising concerns about potential undetected transmission pathways. Presenting a unique blend of genetic sequencing insights and epidemiological analysis, the report underscores the role of asymptomatic cattle movement in driving the spread of the virus to different states, as reported by

Furthermore, the researchers have observed several variants with genetic mutations that could facilitate cross-species transmission, underscoring the complexity of the situation. These findings were recently published on the bioRxiv preprint server.

Visual Representation for Raw Milk, infected with H5N1 flu | Credits: Getty Images

Meanwhile, the USDA has confirmed negative results from tests conducted on retail ground beef from affected regions, offering reassurance regarding the safety of the meat supply. Additionally, states grappling with H5N1 outbreaks, such as Michigan and Colorado, have implemented emergency measures to contain the situation.

Analyzing the genomic data through phylogenetic analysis, the research team suggests a reassortment event between the current highly pathogenic clade in wild birds and a low-pathogenic wild bird strain occurred in late 2023, resulting in the emergence of the B3.13 genotype found in dairy cows, as reports by claimed.

They speculate that the acquisition of the NP gene during reassortment may have facilitated the virus’s adaptation to cattle. However, gaps in data and surveillance hinder a comprehensive understanding of transmission dynamics.

Despite efforts to track the spread of the virus, challenges persist due to incomplete data and surveillance limitations, leading researchers to acknowledge the potential presence of the B3.13 genotype in unsampled locations and hosts. This underscores the need for enhanced surveillance and data transparency to effectively combat the spread of the virus.

Experts in the field have welcomed the release of new data, emphasizing the importance of transparency and data accessibility in formulating an effective response strategy. However, they stress the need for additional information to elucidate transmission pathways and inform preventive measures effectively, as mentioned. 

Visual Representation | Credits: Reuters

In response to the evolving situation, affected states like Michigan and Colorado have implemented stringent measures aimed at containing the spread of H5N1. These include mandatory biosecurity protocols for dairy and poultry farms, as well as enhanced testing requirements for interstate cattle movement.

In conclusion, the ongoing H5N1 outbreaks underscore the intricate dynamics of zoonotic transmission and the importance of proactive measures to mitigate risks to both animal and human health.

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