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A dairy herd in northwest Iowa has been infected with the H5N1 bird flu virus, state Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig said Wednesday. He urged dairy and poultry farmers to “strengthen their biosecurity measures against the virus.” Iowa is the 10th state in the country, and the first since April 25, to detect bird flu in dairy cows.

The Iowa flock, the 83rd in the country with H5N1, is in O’Brien County, right next to Sioux County, where an outbreak of bird flu was reported last week at an egg farm with 4.3 million chickens. Based on genome sequencing, the virus that struck the egg farm matches the variant that has affected dairy farms in other states, the Iowa Department of Agriculture said.

Three dairy farm workers have contracted a mild form of bird flu from cattle; the latest infection was the first to cause respiratory symptoms. The risk to the general public is low, say public health officials, who advise people who come into contact with infected animals to wear gloves, masks and other personal protective equipment.

“Poultry producers and dairy farmers should take immediate action to strengthen their biosecurity measures, limit unnecessary visitors and report symptomatic birds or cattle to the agency,” Naig said. He said new measures to protect Iowa’s livestock would be announced soon. “Although dairy cows in milk production appear to be recovering with supportive care, we know this destructive virus remains deadly to poultry.”

Since February 2022, highly pathogenic avian influenza has killed more than 96.8 million birds in domestic flocks, mostly laying hens and turkeys raised for meat production. It is the largest outbreak of an animal disease to ever hit the United States. The H5N1 virus jumped from birds to dairy cows in the Texas Panhandle in late 2023 or early this year, researchers say.

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