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Alpacas test positive for H5N1 bird flu for the first time


Scientists have been closely monitoring the H5N1 virus for about two decades.


Highly pathogenic bird flu, also called bird flu, has been identified for the first time in alpacas, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories.

The animals that tested positive were on a farm in Idaho where poultry had tested positive for the virus and were culled in May. The alpacas tested positive on May 16, the USDA said in a news release.

The USDA noted that the discovery of other infected animals on the same farm as the infected birds were not necessarily a surprise.

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The gene sequence of viruses isolated from alpacas shows that they are closely related to the H5N1 viruses currently circulating among dairy cattle.

According to the Alpaca Owners Association, there are more than 264,000 registered alpacas in the US.

Scientists have been closely monitoring the H5N1 virus for about two decades. For most of that time, the disease has mainly affected birds. However, over the past two years the virus has infected a wider variety of wild and farmed mammals, raising concerns that the virus is moving closer to becoming a pathogen that can be easily transmitted between humans.

Over the years, human cases have been reported sporadically around the world, including three in the US, but no person-to-person transmission has been reported during the ongoing livestock outbreak in the US.