Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in livestock

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has not been detected in dairy cattle or other livestock in Canada.

We are monitoring this rapidly evolving situation closely and taking proactive measures by testing commercial milk to look for viral fragments of HPAI. Updates will be made as new information becomes available.

HPAI is not a food safety concern and the risk of transmission to humans remains low.

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What the U.S. Department of Agriculture found

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has detected highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in unpasteurized milk from dairy cattle in some areas of the United States.

Affected cows are showing clinical signs that include a decrease in milk production, thicker consistency milk and a decrease in feed consumption.

Most affected cows appear to recover after a period of illness. It is suspected that wild birds may have initially introduced the virus, however, infected cattle without clinical signs of illness may be spreading the disease.

Learn more about the HPAI detections in livestock from the USDA Animal Health Inspection Service.

What consumers need to know

Pasteurized cow's milk and milk products remain safe to consume. Milk from dairy cows in Canada must be pasteurized before sale.

Pasteurization kills harmful bacteria and viruses (including influenza) while retaining the nutritional properties of milk. Pasteurization ensures the milk we drink is safe.

There is also no evidence to suggest that eating thoroughly cooked beef could transmit avian influenza to humans. All evidence to date indicates that thorough cooking will kill the virus.

Safe food handling practices, such as handwashing and keeping meat products separate from other food products to avoid cross contamination should be followed.

What producers can do

Producers should take extra precautions to protect themselves and their herd. Learn more about personal safety.

To protect their herd, producers may help prevent the spread of disease by:

  • monitoring cattle for clinical signs, including a sudden and significant decrease in milk production, thicker consistency milk, and decreased feed intake
  • contacting your veterinarian for any suspected cases
  • practising good biosecurity measures
  • contacting your provincial or national associations for any enhanced biosecurity protocols that may be available

Read more information about animal biosecurity, that includes:

  • animal-specific standards
  • protocols
  • practices
  • a self-assessment checklist

What veterinarians can look for

Veterinarians must contact their local CFIA animal health office if they suspect HPAI infection and consult the Guidance for private veterinarians.

How we respond to detections in cattle versus poultry

Our response to detections of HPAI in cattle is different from detections in domestic birds. Although the virus is the same, cattle respond differently to the virus.

HPAI spreads rapidly between birds and leads to high mortality rates. This represents significant health risks in birds, resulting in negative impacts to trade of live poultry and poultry products. Cattle show milder signs, with only a small proportion of the herd being affected. Cattle typically recover within 1 to 3 weeks and there are no impacts to trade of live cattle or their products.

Our role in HPAI in cattle is to provide scientific guidance and diagnostic assistance and to report internationally.

Consult the CFIA's response to a positive case section in the Guidance for private veterinarians.

Trade implications

The World Organisation of Animal Health (WOAH) does not recommend restrictions on the movement of healthy cattle and their products at this time. Refer to High Pathogenicity Avian Influenza in Cattle.

For the importation of live cattle, the CFIA has current import controls in place, including import permits, export certification and veterinary inspection of imported cattle.

Additional requirements include:

We will continue to closely monitor the evolving situation and will consider any additional measures, as necessary.

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