AlpacaGram 11.34 | Potential Risk for Bird Flu

AlpacaGram 11.34
AlpacaGram 11.34May 30, 2024

Are Your Alpacas at Risk for Bird Flu, West Nile Virus, or EEE?

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1 has been found in multiple species and was recently detected in four alpacas from a premises where HPAI-affected poultry were located. The USDA reported that positive test results for 4 out of 18 alpacas were not a surprise since the livestock on the farm were in close contact with the infected poultry.

HPAI is an emerging disease in the United States. Information concerning clinical signs and transmission patterns is still being learned. However, it appears that it is not uncommon for this virus to pass to mammals. Cases of HPAI have been found in dairy cattle, domestic cats, goats, and over 20 other mammalian species in the United States.

Since the virus may be carried in body fluids such as milk, alpaca owners using milk as supplementation should be cautious and use only pasteurized milk from dairy cows and goats. The risk of humans contracting the virus remains low, with only two recent cases related to dairy cattle infections.

This is an emerging disease for alpacas and the USDA will provide more information as it is acquired. This information and its relevance will be communicated to members as frequently as possible. A link to the most current USDA HPAI information related to livestock can be found on the USDA website.

Furthermore, as mosquitoes emerge, the Government and Industry Relations Committee wants to remind AOA members that it is time to talk to your veterinarian about vaccinating your alpacas if they are at risk for either Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and/or West Nile Virus (WNV). EEE and WNV are carried by mosquitoes, and vaccination during the spring gives protection before peak mosquito season.

EEE and WNV are known to affect both horses and camelids, such as alpacas. Both EEE and WNV are viral diseases that damage horses’ and camelids’ neurological systems. Each disease is transmitted by a mosquito bite. And, both diseases cycle between birds and mosquitoes and horses. Camelids and humans are incidental hosts. Infections of either disease in horses and alpacas are not significant risk factors for human infection because horses and camelids (like humans) are considered “dead-end” hosts for either virus.

Alpaca owners should contact their veterinarian to discuss whether there is a need to consider the WNV and/or EEE vaccinations. Other prevention methods include dumping or draining standing water breeding sites for mosquitoes, such as containers and puddles, and using insect repellents. Additionally, removing animals from mosquito-infested areas during peak biting times, usually from dusk to dawn, and turning off the lights in and around the barn at night can also help.

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