ENVIRONMENT

Cows across the country are getting sick with a “flu-like” illness

Mar 27, 2024, 7:00 PM

Dairy cows across the country, specifically in Texas, Kansas and New Mexico are getting sick with a...

Dairy cows across the country, specifically in Texas, Kansas and New Mexico are getting sick with a flu-like illness. (Canva)

(Canva)

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF) is altering the requirements for livestock brought into the state after multiple cows across the country have gotten sick with a flu-like illness.  

“We are not restricting imports but rather strengthening the requirements for cattle that are coming in from Texas, Kansas, [and] New Mexico,” said Bailee Woolstenhulme with the department. 

According to a UDAF press release, they are making sure each dairy cow transported from these states gets a “veterinary inspection certificate.” That certificate needs to be issued within seven days after transport, to make sure none of the cows entering the state are sick.

How does this affect us? 

The UDAF said the illness isn’t contagious to humans. Instead, it’s just affecting older cows who still actively produce milk.

“We’re only seeing it in dairy cattle. Specifically, older age, lactating cattle. So if they are not currently milking, we have not seen this disease affecting them,” Woolstenhume said. 

The symptoms include decreased milk production, lower appetite and a low fever.  

Woolstenhulme said it’s only affecting a small population of cattle. So far there is no evidence that it affects other animals, or beef cattle. It’s affecting enough milk production for dairy farmers to notice, but it isn’t causing any issues with commercial milk supply.

Under the national “Pasteurization Milk Ordinance,” abnormal and unpasteurized milk can’t be sold. 

“[The] pasteurization process kills all the viruses and bacteria that could cause this. That milk has to pass very rigorous testing to make sure that it does not have any contaminants in it, such as this virus or any other bacteria,” Woolstenhume said.

Some of the herds affected by the illness have tested positive for avian flu, but the UDAF said scientists haven’t yet confirmed if this illness is related.

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Cows across the country are getting sick with a “flu-like” illness