A virus outbreak that has been killing off birds is making its rounds through cattle in several states.

Officials in New Jersey want residents to be cautious, at least until there's a better understanding of the spread of the deadly disease.

Detection of H5N1 in dairy cattle first occurred in late March in the Texas panhandle region.

As of today, it's been detected in domestic livestock in 9 states. New Jersey isn't one of them; North Carolina and Ohio are the closest.

Bird Flu Livestock
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Still, it's not a guarantee that dairy cows are disease-free in the Garden State, although bird migration patterns in the West differ from patterns on the East Coast.

Stay away from raw milk

As a precautionary measure, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture and the New Jersey Department of Health are urging residents to avoid raw milk, for their pets and for themselves.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is not reporting concerns about the commercial milk supply because products are pasteurized (treatment with heat) before they hit the market.

"The only thing to kill the virus is the pasteurization process," said New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Ed Wengryn. "A virus like H5N1 is sensitive to heat. It kills the virus, and it's no longer a viable body that can infect other living organisms."

There has been one confirmed human infection associated with this outbreak, according to the USDA.

“Healthy people of any age can get very sick after consuming raw milk or raw milk products; however, children younger than 5 years, adults over 65 years, and those with weakened immune systems are most at risk for severe illness,” said New Jersey Health Commissioner Dr. Kaitlan Baston.

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Feeding raw milk to pets can make them sick. On a Texas farm impacted by the current outbreak, there were reports of cats that died after consuming raw milk from infected cows.

"The milk marketing system is such that milk moves around the country, and consumers should not assume raw milk being sold as pet food came from a farm free of the virus," Wengryn said. "We are fortunate that New Jersey has had no reported detections of H5N1 in dairy cattle. Because of the national marketing of milk, we will continue to be vigilant.”

A federal order in place since late April requires that lactating cattle be tested for disease, and cleared, before they can cross state lines.

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