Genetic Analysis Suggests Bird Flu Outbreak in American Dairy Cattle Started in Winter Months


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A new analysis of genetic data suggests that the bird flu outbreak in American dairy cattle may have started as early as December or January. The Department of Agriculture confirmed cases of the H5N1 virus in dairy cattle in Texas and Kansas in late March, with subsequent reports in several other states.

Discovery of H5N1

Federal health officials found fragments of the H5N1 virus in milk samples collected from various locations nationwide. Fortunately, these fragments do not pose a threat to consumers. The likely source of infection in cattle is believed to be feces or secretions from wild birds carrying the virus.

Criticism of Information Sharing

Scientists have criticized federal agencies for not sharing crucial information about the bird flu outbreaks. The genetic sequences of the virus found in infected cows could provide valuable insights into the virus’s evolution and the scale of the outbreak. The New York Times reported that details such as the virus’s genetic sequences and outbreak locations were initially withheld.

Release of Genetic Sequences

On Sunday, the Department of Agriculture published 239 genetic sequences of the virus. However, some specific information, such as the locations and dates of sample collection, was omitted. This data is essential for understanding the spread and impact of the H5N1 outbreak in American dairy cattle.

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