Florida temporarily bans import of cattle at risk for avian influenza

by | Apr 12, 2024

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson issued an emergency rule to ban the import of cattle exposed to or infected with Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza.

Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Wilton Simpson issued an emergency rule on Friday to prevent the spread of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) into the state, following confirmed cases of the virus in livestock across eight other states.

The Emergency Rule specifically targets the importation of cattle, banning those exposed to or infected with HPAI, particularly Bovine Associated Influenza A Syndrome (H5N1). The measure also restricts the entry of lactating dairy cattle from states with suspected or confirmed cases of H5N1, while non-lactating dairy cattle must be accompanied by a valid Official Certificate of Veterinary Inspection issued no more than 10 days prior to importation.

The move comes as Florida remains free of any HPAI cases in livestock.

“This emergency rule is a critical step in protecting Florida’s livestock and the health of our citizens,” Simpson said. “We are committed to working collaboratively with federal, state, and industry partners to mitigate the risks posed by Bovine Associated Influenza A Syndrome and ensure the continued safety and integrity of Florida’s agriculture industry, which has a more than $180 billion annual impact and supports more than 2.5 million jobs.”

HPAI primarily affects birds, particularly poultry, causing severe disease and high mortality rates. Notable for its rapid transmission among birds via respiratory droplets and contaminated surfaces, HPAI occasionally infects mammals, including humans, often through direct contact with infected animals. Human infections are rare but can be severe and potentially fatal.

Outbreaks have substantial economic impacts on the poultry industry due to bird losses, containment costs, and trade restrictions, while also posing risks to biodiversity, especially among wild bird populations, though veterinarian experts assert that Florida remains at little risk.

“Florida is at lower risk for Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in domestic livestock as we are net exporters of cattle and import few lactating dairy cattle,” said Dr. Michael Short, State Veterinarian and Director of the Division of Animal Industry.


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