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Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in Dairy Cattle

The New Mexico Department of Health is working in partnership with the New Mexico Livestock Board and New Mexico Department of Agriculture along with the the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on an investigation of an illness among dairy cows in the United States.

The illness is a highly contagious flu typically found in birds. New Mexico is among a number of states nationwide where dairy herds have tested positive for this bird flu, also known in scientific terms as highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).

The strain of flu found in dairy cattle is the same as that found in wild birds circulating in the US since 2022, and rarely can be passed from dairy cows to humans. It can also be passed from birds to humans and other animals too. Below is a list of frequently asked questions about the illness and what people need to know about the virus:

Should I be worried about HPAI? What can I do to keep myself safe?

Human infections from HPAI are rare and the risk to the public is very low. Members of the public can keep themselves safe by practicing basic food safety, such as making sure that poultry (like chicken, turkeys, ducks and other birds) and eggs are cooked to safe temperatures, as well as by avoiding any sick or dead birds.

Is the milk supply safe?

Yes, the milk supply is safe. Milk from sick cows is not sold to consumers. Pasteurization, or the process of heating milk to kill harmful bacteria and viruses, prevents transmission of HPAI through milk. However, raw milk that has not been pasteurized may present a higher risk. People should avoid consuming raw milk or raw cheeses.

Is it safe to eat eggs and poultry?

Yes, eggs and poultry that are properly cooked and prepared are safe to eat. Eggs and poultry should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F. Individuals should practice safe food handling and preparation. Keep raw poultry and eggs away from other foods. After cutting raw meat, wash cutting boards, utensils, and countertops with hot, soapy water. Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds both before and after handling raw meat and eggs. If you have more questions about food safety, you can call the USDA Meat and Poultry hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854).

I am a farm worker, what steps can I take to protect myself from HPAI?

Use protective equipment while working, including gloves, an N95 respirator, and eye protection. Avoid touching your mouth, nose, or eyes after any contact with farm animals or surfaces or materials that may be contaminated with animal saliva, mucous, or feces. Wash your hands with soap and water after any contact with animals or high-risk surfaces.

I am a hunter who handles wild birds, what should I do to stay safe?

Hunters should field dress game birds where possible. They should practice good hygiene to limit disease risk. Wear gloves, eye protection, and an N95 respirator or a well-fitting face mask (for example, a surgical mask) while dressing birds or handling dead birds. Wash your hands with soap and water after touching any wild or domestic birds. If you have domestic birds at home, change clothing before interacting with them and after you have interacted with wild birds.

I have been exposed to HPAI, what should I do?

Monitor yourself for any new respiratory illness symptoms, including cough, fever, sore throat, stuffy or runny nose, headaches, and shortness of breath. You should also monitor yourself for conjunctivitis (redness, itching, and discharge from the eyes). Less common symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Continue monitoring yourself for ten days from the last exposure.

I feel sick and am worried I have HPAI, what should I do?

The risk of HPAI to the public is very low, so most people experiencing flu-like symptoms are unlikely to have HPAI. If you are concerned about your health, see a medical provider for assessment. Some people are at higher risk, including poultry and dairy workers and those who have had contact with dead birds. If you fall into one of these categories and have mild symptoms, please call the New Mexico Department of Health Helpline at 1-833-796-8773 for evaluation. NMHealth staff can refer you for testing and treatment at an NMHealth Public Health Office. Any individual experiencing severe medical symptoms, including a fever over 104°F or difficulty breathing, should call 911 or seek care at their nearest emergency room.

I found a sick dead bird or other animal. What should I do?

If you find a dead bird on your property, do not touch the bird. Please contact your local New Mexico Department of Game & Fish game warden if the following conditions are met:

  1. You witness any bird experiencing neurological symptoms such as tremors, inability to stand, or weakness that is a high-risk species (waterfowl, raptors).
  2. More than five high-risk birds (waterfowl, raptors) are found dead within 7 days in one location, or more than 10 lower-risk birds (songbirds) are found dead within 7 days in one location.

You can find your local game warden by going to: New Mexico Department of Game & Fish Enforcement Contacts

For questions about disposing of dead birds safely, please visit: Dead Birds - City of Albuquerque

My backyard poultry flock has sick or dead birds. What should I do?

Contact the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Veterinary Service office for New Mexico by calling Albuquerque office staff at 505-313-8050.

My cat is currently sick and may have been exposed to HPAI through dead birds or farm animals. What should I do?

Symptoms of HPAI in cats include neurological symptoms such as difficulty walking or seizures. They may also have lethargy, loss of appetite, fever, difficulty breathing, and eye irritation/discharge. The best way to keep cats safe is to keep them indoors. Please contact your veterinarian and arrange to be seen if your cat is acting sick. Let the veterinarian know that you suspect that your cat may have been exposed to HPAI. When interacting with your cat or high-risk surfaces such as food dishes and litter boxes, use appropriate personal protective equipment, including gloves, an N95 respirator or secure surgical mask, and eye protection. Wash your hands thoroughly after any interactions with your cat or high-risk surfaces. If your veterinarian has questions about HPAI, they can contact the NM Health Helpline at 1-833-796-8773.

I am a clinician with questions about HPAI, how can I learn more?

Please see the informational links below. For further questions or patient-specific inquiries, call the NM Health Helpline at 1-833-796-8773.

General Info:

Generalized information on HPAI A (H5N1) such as disease transmission, confirmed cases, and safe preventative practices are listed below in the following links. For further questions call the NM Health Helpline at 1-833-796-8773.

Farm Worker Protection:

Workers, even those not in direct contact with dairy cattle, should practice general safe hygiene practices such as thorough hand-washing before breaks, mealtimes, touching their face, or leaving work. Safe practices and PPE considerations for farmers and dairy workers can be found in the following links provided below. If you are concerned that you have been exposed to HPAI A (H5N1) or are showing symptoms of acute respiratory illness, please contact your primary care provider. For further questions call the NM Health Helpline at 1-833-796-8773.

For Clinicians / Providers:

Clinicians should consider testing for HPAI A (H5N1) in persons showing signs or symptoms of acute respiratory illness if they have relevant exposure history. Additionally, consider testing persons with a relevant exposure history who are experiencing conjunctivitis, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, or seizures, even if respiratory signs or symptoms are absent. Contact with animals, animal products (e.g. raw milk), or people with suspected or confirmed HPAI A (H5N1) in the previous 10 days are considered exposures.

All patients potentially infected with HPAI A (H5N1) should be started on oseltamivir (Tamiflu) immediately, without waiting for test results. Prophylaxis for all household contacts using the treatment dose is also recommended.

Clinicians should notify NMHealth of any patient with suspected avian influenza infection via the NMHealth Helpline at 1-833-796-8773.


Since this current clade of HPAI A(H5N1) began circulating in the United States in 2022, infections have been confirmed in over 200 mammals comprising over 20 different species (and in at least 48 species worldwide). Felids are known to be susceptible, and we recommend including HPAI A(H5N1) on your differential for cats that may have had contact with other animals, particularly cattle and wild birds, with suspected or confirmed HPAI A(H5N1). Neurologic signs, respiratory signs, and rapid progression to death have been associated with these cases. There has been a confirmed human infection with HPAI A(H5N1) in a Texas resident after exposure to cattle believed to be infected; this was the first documented mammal-to-human transmission of this virus.