Maryland is taking steps to prevent the spread of bird flu to dairy cows after the virus was detected in recent weeks in several herds across the US.

The Department of Agriculture has issued an order putting restrictions on bringing dairy cows into Maryland from states with confirmed outbreaks of the highly pathogenic avian influenza in cattle herds.

“Maryland is home to a robust dairy and cattle genetics industry. The Maryland Department of Agriculture, in collaboration with state and federal partners, is actively monitoring and responding to this situation,” said Maryland Agriculture Secretary Kevin Atticks in a release Wednesday, adding that the order acts as “another layer of protection” for Maryland farmers.

The H5N1 strain of avian influenza, commonly known as the bird flu, has been detected in cattle herds in states including Texas, Kansas, Michigan, New Mexico, Idaho and Ohio, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Officials believe avian influenza was introduced to these herds by wild birds, where the H5N1 virus has been circulating for several years.

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One person in Texas, who was likely exposed to dairy cattle infected with H5N1, also tested positive for the virus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is just the second reported person to have tested positive ever in the United States for avian influenza.

In Maryland, there have been no detections of avian influenza in cattle, according to the Department of Agriculture. The virus was confirmed in a backyard flock of chickens in Charles County in February, in poultry at a Caroline County farm in November 2023 and in poultry from a Washington County farm in November 2022.

The risk of transmission of bird flu to the general public remains low, but the Department of Agriculture advises people that work with poultry and livestock to remain vigilant for signs of the illness. The Food and Drug Administration has also said there’s no concern about the safety of milk people buy in most grocery stores, because products are required to be pasteurized.

The Maryland Department of Agriculture asks people to report possible cases of bird flu in agriculture animals by calling 410-841-5810. Commercial chicken growers and backyard flock owners can also email questions

Carrie Mihalcik is an editor on the Express Desk at The Baltimore Banner focused on breaking and trending news.

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