June 18, 2024


24 US companies developing avian flu vaccine for cattle



US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that 24 companies are actively engaged in developing an avian flu vaccine for cattle, as the virus continues to spread among US dairy herds, Reuters reported.


Since late March, avian flu has affected 90 dairy herds across 12 states, as reported by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). The virus has also infected three dairy farm workers, with cases recorded in Michigan and Texas.


The development of a vaccine could mitigate the risk of avian flu spreading to new species and potentially reduce economic losses for dairy farmers. However, the timeline for vaccine development is anticipated to span several years.


Among the companies involved in vaccine development, Zoetis has already commenced work on a vaccine for dairy cattle this spring. Merck Animal Health is also actively exploring technologies and strategies to swiftly respond to emerging diseases, including avian flu in cattle.


Apart from private sector initiatives, the USDA is conducting preliminary research on a vaccine candidate at its laboratory in Ames, Iowa, Vilsack confirmed. The agency is currently focused on identifying a viable vaccine candidate for efficacy testing.


Vilsack said the timeline for the vaccine development process could vary significantly, from as soon as tomorrow to potentially up to a year.


In addition to vaccine development, the USDA is intensifying efforts to understand potential respiratory spread of the virus among cows and is supporting farmers to enhance biosecurity measures on farms.


While wild birds are known vectors for introducing avian flu to poultry farms, Vilsack highlighted that on dairy farms, the primary risks of transmission appear to be associated with human and equipment movements.


Vilsack said for dairy cattle, the transmission risks are more related to movements of cattle, people, vehicles, and equipment that may unwittingly carry the virus, which underscores the critical importance of biosecurity measures.


The USDA is preparing to launch a pilot programme for bulk milk testing "in the very near future," Vilsack announced. This initiative aims to expand virus testing capabilities while facilitating the interstate movement of healthy herds without requiring negative tests from individual cows.


States like Michigan and Idaho have expressed interest in participating in the pilot program, according to Vilsack, underscoring the collaborative efforts between federal and state authorities to address the challenges posed by avian flu in the dairy sector.


-      Reuters

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