Bird Flu Concerns in Dairy: Raw Milk Enthusiasts Weigh the Risks

Today, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) declared new support programs for producers who were affected by the H5N1 avian flu outbreaks in cattle.

The help is given to both the on-site biosecurity and the financial losses connected with the lost milk production in herds that are affected by H5N1. USDA said the measures are in line with the federal order that came into force on April 29, which instructed to collect and aggregate the H5N1 test results and to stop most of the interstate movement of lactating herds.

The new programs encourage personal protective equipment (PPE) for farm workers who work with infected herds that now total at least 42. The USDA will also reimburse farmers for veterinary costs associated with infected animals and offsets shipping costs for influenza A testing at laboratories in the National Animal Health Laboratory Network.

In combination, these tools are worth up to $28,000 per premises to enable the enhancement of biosecurity activities in the next 120 days, the two agencies said.

CDC takes the initiative on the wastewater surveillance.

HHS is also making new funding investments through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) totaling $101 million to reduce the danger of H5N1.

The CDC’s assessment of the risk for avian influenza infection for the general public is still low, but these investments show that the Department is committed to the health and safety of the American public, HHS said.

The money in the CDC funds also covers $8 million of vaccine activities to find out if the current Candidate Vaccine Viruses would be effective and the current strain of H5N1. The CDC will also distribute $3 million for the wastewater surveillance.

According to Reuters, today the CDC has started to post data on influenza A in wastewater on a public dashboard.

The news agency quoted Marc Johnson, PhD, a virologist at the University of Missouri who made a wastewater monitoring system for COVID.

I’m not concerned about the cattle. I’m not concerned about the milk. But I’m concerned that there are numerous other animals that it can jump to, and eventually it’s going to find a combination that can make it into us if we’re not careful,” he said.

No commercially produced milk with live virus.

The FDA today announced the completeness of the testing on 297 retail dairy samples; all were negative for viable H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) viruses.

The initial results were made public last week. The FDA stated that it would still provide the funding for the surveillance and research on the safety of the commercial milk.

The agency also announced that an extra $8 million is being allocated to aid the FDA in the process of guaranteeing the quality of the commercial milk supply. This money will help the agency to check the pasteurization criteria, conduct the surveillance at different stages of the milk production system and increase the lab.

“The FDA still advises the consumers to stay away from the raw milk.”

Up to now, the FDA has stated that the whole body of evidence, including the studies on the effectiveness of pasteurization for many pathogens, recent studies on the effectiveness of the pasteurization of the HPAI H5N1 in eggs at lower temperatures than the ones used in dairy products, the negative retail sample results so far, and the real-world evidence from the last 100

Moreover, the FDA also keeps on advising against the consumption of raw milk (milk that has not been pasteurized).

New H5N1 detections

Lastly, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) declared yesterday 6 more dairy herds infected with H5N1, thus, the total now is 42. They are in already affected states: Four herds exist in Michigan, one in Colorado and one in Idaho. The number of the states which are hit by the hurricane is still nine.

In Michigan, both a dairy herd and a backyard poultry flock in Ionia County were hit by H5N1. That county has recorded the virus in cattle before and, last week, in pigeons.

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