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Six Idaho dairy farms have the avian flu. Here’s what you need to know

FILE- A line of Holstein dairy cows feed through a fence at a dairy farm outside Jerome, Idaho. The University of Idaho wants to build the nation's largest research dairy and experimental farm in south-central Idaho. In a presentation to Gov. Brad Little and other members of the Idaho Land Board on Tuesday, August 16, 2022, University President Scott Green and school officials said the proposed Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment, or CAFE, will help support growth of the dairy and other industries. (AP Photo/Charlie Litchfield, File)
Charlie Litchfield
/
Associated Press
FILE- A line of Holstein dairy cows feed through a fence at a dairy farm outside Jerome, Idaho. The University of Idaho wants to build the nation's largest research dairy and experimental farm in south-central Idaho. In a presentation to Gov. Brad Little and other members of the Idaho Land Board on Tuesday, August 16, 2022, University President Scott Green and school officials said the proposed Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment, or CAFE, will help support growth of the dairy and other industries. (AP Photo/Charlie Litchfield, File)

The Idaho State Department of Agriculture confirmed on Friday avian flu had been detected in a dairy operation for the first time in Minidoka County.

Last week, two farms in Jerome County also tested positive. The first three cases were detected in early April in Cassia County after a farm there received cows from an affected dairy in Texas.

State Veterinarian Dr. Scott Leibsle said about 10 to 20% of cows in affected facilities have tested positive and the economic impact to farmers has been significant.

“What you're seeing is, is a drop in milk production and a drop in feed intake for about that period of time. And then once the symptoms resolve and once the cattle recover, for the most part they're able to return to production,” Dr. Leibsle said.

He said while a large number of cattle have gotten sick, few cases have been fatal and most recover in 10 to 15 days. Poultry cases, however, are lethal and present a greater economic loss.

“As long as there are birds interacting with livestock, there will be a risk that dairy cattle could potentially acquire the virus,” Dr. Leibsle added.

There are no vaccines yet for cattle, so it is recommended farmers focus on prevention and clean equipment before handling livestock to slow the spread of this disease. While the effects of consuming raw milk are still unknown, pasteurized milk is safe to drink.

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