Canadian cows aren’t sick with bird flu — yet

If you feel stressed about your job, remember that dairy farmers are hoping that their cows don’t have a disease that’s named after a different animal.

Driving the news: After dozens of cows in the U.S. tested positive for H5N1 — a dangerous form of bird flu — lactating dairy cows coming from the U.S. must now test negative for the virus. Last year, Canada imported 5,845 dairy cattle from the U.S.

  • The virus has been increasingly infecting wild birds and poultry in the U.S. since 2022, but this is the first time that dairy cows have been infected. About 36 herds have been infected across nine states, with the first case reported in March.
  • Bird flu hasn’t been detected in Canadian dairy cattle yet. However, it's widespread among birds in Canada, affecting over 11 million of them.

In Canada: The U.S. is starting to test vulnerable cowsmilkground beef, and even humans, but Canada lacks such widespread testing, saying it will test on “suspicion of the disease.” This has raised concerns from experts over the ability to detect infections in the country before it's too late.

Why it matters: The rapid spread of bird flu poses an increasing risk to Canada's farmers, who are on the front lines of safeguarding animal health. Experts are also worried that the virus could mutate and spread more easily.

  • Nearly all human cases of the virus have come from direct contact with infected poultry. The fatality rate in humans that have the virus is about 52%.

Yes, but: It’s still rare for humans to get the virus. You can't catch it from everyday things Canadians eat or drink, like pasteurized milk. Since the beginning of the outbreak in dairy cows, only one person has been infected with the virus: a dairy worker in Texas.—MR