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Employer Resources from FELS

Avian Influenza (H5N1)

Updated May 31, 2024


May 30, 2024: California Department of Public Health HPAI (Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza) PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) Distribution: Annette Jones, DVM, State Veterinarian and Directer of Animal Health and Food Safety Services for the California Department of Food and Agriculture sent the following message with livestock industry contacts:  As many of you may know, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Health Alert Network (HAN) Health Advisory on April 5, 2024 regarding a confirmed human infection with highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) A(H5N1) virus, and on May 22, 2024, a second case in the United States following exposure to infected dairy cattle has been confirmed. To date, HPAI has not been detected in dairy cattle in California. CDC and CDPH believe that the risk of infection to the general public is low.  However, individuals with close exposure to infected birds or other animals, such as livestock, have a greater risk of infection. As recommended by the CDC on May 6, 2024 , CDPH is supporting a one-time distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) for dairy farmworkers and others handling raw milk, as well as slaughterhouse and poultry workers.  CDPH is working closely with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) around PPE distribution to farms and agricultural workers. The idea is to get supplies closer to where needed ahead of increased risk in an enhanced preparedness stance, demonstrating our shared prioritization of worker wellbeing.  For facilities interested in ordering a one-time supply of PPE, please refer to Facility PPE Ordering Instructions. The deadline for orders is June 9th. 

In a subsequent message, Michael Payne of the California Dairy Quality Assurance Program and UC Davis added some helpful context: CDFA is working with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) for a one-time distribution of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for dairy farmworkers and others handling raw milk, as well as slaughterhouse and poultry workers. Because “Bird Flu” in dairy cattle has not yet been recognized in California, there are currently no requirements for use of additional PPE for the State’s dairy employees. This PPE distribution is intended to allow for 30 days of PPE to be stored on the farm, ready for use in the event that a California dairy tests positive. The distribution also demonstrates to public health regulators and the public that industry values preparedness and prioritizes protecting employees. The distribution is free and is coming from existing public health stockpiles, however the deadline for ordering is June 9th. More detailed information is provided by Dr. Jones in her email below and in the attachments.

How Much PPE to Ask For?

The intention is to store 30 days of PPE for employees who handle raw milk. In our case this could be milkers, certainly hospital pen workers and potentially calf feeders. Which employees are relevant and which PPE to request could be discussed with your herd veterinarian.

One example for a dairy with 10 relevant workers could be: 300 disposable N95 masks. (30 days x 10 employees X 1mask/day); 600 disposable nitrile gloves (30 x 2/pair x 10 employees); 10 goggles (one personal set of goggles for every employee potential with exposure. Not to be shared. Given that the only two cases of HPAI in dairy workers have been eye infection, (potentially from splashes or touching the eyes with hands contaminated with milk) goggles or face shields may be the most protective of the requested PPE items.   

The above is only an example. Each farm’s PPE needs may be different, and may vary from CDC’s farm worker recommendations. There are other options available, including face shields and disposable bouffant caps. Unless human risk profiles in this disease change, producers will probably want to avoid Power Air Purifying Respirators (PAPRs) which require batteries and fit testing. Producers with questions can consult their herd veterinarian, their local CDFA veterinary medical officer or CDQAP.


May 10, 2024: CDC Asks States to Distribute Stockpiled PPE to Dairies: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has asked states to distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) from state stockpiles to operators of poultry farms, dairy farms and farmworker organizations. California currently (as of the date of this posting) has no known cases of H5N1.  Absent confirmed or suspected H5N1, (animals showing signs of infection per the opinion of a veterinarian), scarce resources should be held in the event of confirmed infection.  Should an agricultural employer wish to provide PPE like an N95 respirator, employers can permit their use following voluntary use guidelines in Appendix D, Title 8 5144, Cal/OSHA respiratory protection program 


April 19, 2024: CDPH Recommendations for Protecting Dairy Employees from H5N1 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenze (HPAI)The California Department of Public Heath has issued the following recommendations for protection of dairy employees over the signature of Kristin J. Commings, Chief of CDPH's Occupational Health Branch.  CDPA recommends employers should take measures to protect workers from avian influenza virus infection if livestock become sick and you suspect or know it to be due to avian influenza infection. 


March 25, 2024: USDA, HHS Announce New Actions to Reduce Impact and Spread of H5N1: Following the first detection of H5N1 in dairy cattle in the Texas panhandle region, USDA and HHS began their work to understand the origin of the emergence and its potential impact in bovines and humans. USDA experts also took swift action to trace animal movements, began sampling to assess the disease prevalence in herds, and initiated a variety of testing activities to confirm the safety of the meat and milk supplies alongside federal partners. On April 1, 2024, Texas reported the first and only confirmed human H5N1 infection associated with this outbreak, after confirmation by CDC. On April 24, 2024, USDA issued a Federal Order, that took effect on April 29, to limit the movement of lactating dairy cattle and to collect and aggregate H5N1 test results to better understand the nature of the outbreak. Since the detection of H5N1 in dairy cattle, the Federal response has leveraged the latest available scientific data, field epidemiology, and risk assessments to mitigate risks to workers and the general public, to ensure the safety of America’s food supply and to mitigate risk to livestock, owners, and producers. Today, USDA is taking a series of additional steps to help achieve these goals and reduce the impact of H5N1 on affected premises and producers, and HHS is announcing new actions through the CDC and FDA to increase testing and laboratory screening and testing capacity, genomic sequencing, and other interventions to protect the health and safety of dairy and other potentially impacted food items.