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USDA launches herd status pilot; third worker tests positive for HPAI

Posted on Jun 06, 2024 at 16:12 PM

With Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) cases identified at 81 dairies in nine states and a second Michigan dairy worker testing positive for the virus that causes it, the USDA is moving forward with new efforts to contain the outbreak.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported on May 30 that a second human case of the virus occurred at a different dairy farm from the previously reported case on May 22. The second worker experienced respiratory symptoms, was given antiviral medication and is recovering, the agency reported. 

In April, the CDC reported the first human case to be linked to the avian flu outbreak in dairy cattle. A person at a Texas dairy farm exposed to infected cattle reported eye redness (consistent with pink eye), as their only symptom. The first Michigan dairy worker confirmed to have avian flu also presented eye redness as their only symptom. 

On May 30, the USDA announced it is adding emergency funding from the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) to bolster efforts to ensure the health and viability of the nation’s livestock and poultry. The department is launching a new Voluntary H5N1 Dairy Herd Status Pilot Program to give dairy producers more options to monitor the health of their herds and move cows more quickly between states while providing on-going testing and expanding USDA’s understanding of the disease.

Emergency Funding to Build on Response Efforts

To help ensure the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) can continue to provide critical rapid response activities, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack approved the transfer of $824 million from the CCC to APHIS to directly support the response efforts. The funding will support anticipated diagnostics, field response activities, pre-movement testing requirements, other necessary surveillance and control activities, surveillance in wildlife for APHIS, the Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) work in developing vaccines for HPAI in cattle, turkeys, pigs, and goats, and ARS and the Food Safety and Inspection Service’s food safety studies. 

Voluntary Dairy Herd Status Pilot Program 

APHIS is launching a Voluntary H5N1 Dairy Herd Status Pilot Program, which provides alternative testing and movement options to the Federal Order, announced in April, to increase USDA's monitoring capabilities to mitigate the spread of H5N1. The Voluntary H5N1 Dairy Herd Status Pilot Program aims to create additional testing options for producers with herds that have tested negative for three weeks in a row, further reduce H5N1 virus dissemination, provide for further opportunities to test herds that are not known to be affected with H5N1, increase surveillance and expand knowledge of the disease, and support an overall national program to reduce the risk of H5N1 in dairy herds.

The main benefit for farmers who choose to enroll in the Voluntary H5N1 Dairy Herd Status Pilot Program is that once they can demonstrate their herds are free of H5N1 with results from a National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN) facility, they will then need to conduct weekly tests on bulk milk from that herd to confirm its virus-free status allowing the farm to ship their cows at the time they prefer and without testing individual animals. 

Dairy producers from states enrolled in the first phase of this program who choose to enroll their herds and who test negative for H5N1 for three consecutive weeks using on-farm bulk tank milk samples or similar representative milk samples tested at a NAHLN laboratory will be able to move animals without additional pre-movement testing currently required under the Federal Order. Producers must also comply with continued regular weekly monitoring and testing of the herd for H5N1. 

APHIS is currently working with state animal health officials to identify states to participate in a pilot phase of the program. Producers from states participating in this pilot can enroll in the Voluntary H5N1 Dairy Herd Status Pilot Program by contacting their APHIS Area Veterinarian in Charge or State Veterinarian and signing a Herd Monitoring Plan agreement. USDA strongly encourages dairy producers to enroll in this new program. Beyond the benefits for their own operations, increased producer participation may help USDA to establish state and/or regional disease-free statuses that could further ease compliance with the current Federal Order. Those herds not enrolled in the pilot program will continue to follow the interstate testing and movement requirements published in the Federal Order in April. More specific guidance on the new program, including how to enroll and how to obtain and maintain a herd status, will be made available on the APHIS website in the coming days.

As additional testing measures take place, USDA anticipates that it will see an increase in testing and positive test results, which will add to knowledge of the disease and how it may spread between herds. At the same time, this pilot program will help to gather additional information on how producers with affected herds can document elimination of the virus on their operations and steps they can take to maintain an H5N1 virus-free herd.

To learn more about USDA’s response to H5N1 in dairy cattle, visit

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