Minnesota goat has bird flu, 1st time HPAI found in domestic ruminant in US

Health officials say a young goat in Stevens County is the first domestic ruminant in the country to test positive for Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), more commonly called the bird flu.

The Minnesota Board of Animal Health confirmed the detection on Wednesday, adding that the goat was on a farm with poultry that had the same virus. However, no cattle, sheep, goats or their relatives have ever gotten a confirmed case of HPAI in the U.S.

“This finding is significant because, while the spring migration is definitely a higher risk transmission period for poultry, it highlights the possibility of the virus infecting other animals on farms with multiple species,” State Veterinarian Dr. Brian Hoefs said. “Thankfully, research to-date has shown mammals appear to be dead-end hosts, which means they’re unlikely to spread HPAI further.”

The case was discovered after the farm owner told the board about unusual deaths of some newly kidded goats. One of the carcasses was then brought to the University of Minnesota where the diagnosis — H5N1, the same virus from the national bird flu outbreak in 2022 — was confirmed.

HPAI has been found in other mammals, including skunks, dogs and cats, the board says, and those with weaked or immature immune systems like these goat kids have a higher risk of contracting the virus.

The board added that the risk to the public is “extremely low” and any risk of human infection is limited to those in direct contact with infected animals. However, nobody in the U.S. has reported falling ill after contact with infected mammals thus far, officials say.

HPAI poultry infections have also slow significantly since the outbreak began in 2022. The board’s data shows only two sites in Minnesota have confirmed infections so far this year, affecting less than 40 birds total.