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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Bird flu virus found in US retail milk

The pathogen has been detected in 33 cattle herds in eight states, officials say

Particles of bird flu have been found in samples of consumer milk in the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said on Tuesday, revealing the extent of an outbreak of the H5N1 strain of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI).

The virus has previously been detected in raw milk, the agency wrote, adding that while “pasteurization is likely to inactivate the virus,” the process is not expected to fully remove the presence of viral particles.

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The FDA national survey further discovered traces of bird flu in “milk from affected animals, in the processing system, and on the shelves.”

“To date, we have seen nothing that would change our assessment that the commercial milk supply is safe,” the agency claimed, insisting that if the testing process finds “genetic material” from the virus, this “does not mean that the sample contains an intact, infectious pathogen.”

While the FDA insists there is no real concern about the safety of pasteurized dairy products, other agencies said produce from sick cows should not be on the shelves. “Only milk from healthy animals is authorized for distribution into interstate commerce for human consumption,” the National Milk Producers Federation wrote on its website.

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Meanwhile, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has revealed that bird flu had been found in 33 herds of dairy cows in eight states as of Monday.

Although Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza has been circulating for more than 20 years, its spread to bovine livestock is causing alarm, the Washington Post wrote on Tuesday.

The concern “is that it’s showing up in a lot more samples, meaning the infection is more widespread in dairy herds than we thought,” a US public health official told the paper on the condition of anonymity.

Both the USDA and the FDA have urged consumers to avoid drinking raw milk as the situation evolves. Further results are expected in the coming days and weeks, authorities said.