HealthWHO finds high levels of bird flu in raw milk, first human case reported

WHO finds high levels of bird flu in raw milk, first human case reported

The first case of human infection with avian influenza AH5N1 after contact with cow's milk has been reported.
The first case of human infection with avian influenza AH5N1 after contact with cow's milk has been reported.
Images source: © Getty Images | Bohdan Bevz

5:32 PM EDT, April 20, 2024

The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced the detection of high concentrations of the H5N1 strain of bird flu virus in raw milk from infected animals. The duration the virus can survive in milk remains unclear.

On Friday, the WHO reported finding bird flu, specifically the H5N1 strain, in raw milk at very high concentrations. Raw milk lacks the standard pasteurization process necessary to kill bacteria.

Officials have affirmed that pasteurized milk, commonly found in retail stores, remains safe.

Since emerging in 1996, the A(H5N1) bird flu virus has become increasingly prevalent. Since 2020, there has been a significant rise in infections among birds and mammals, resulting in the deaths of tens of millions of farmed birds and affecting wild birds, land, and marine mammals.

In a surprising development last month, cows and goats were found to be susceptible to this flu, contradicting previous assumptions of their immunity.

First case of human infection with bird flu from a mammal

An early April incident in Texas (USA) marked the first known human infection with bird flu transmitted from dairy cows. This represents the first H5N1 virus transmission from a mammal to a human, as reported by New Scientist. The individual affected had a mild form of the illness, with conjunctivitis being the only symptom.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that the risk of bird flu infection remains low. The highest risk is for those in direct contact with infected birds or animals. The CDC continues to affirm the safety of pasteurized milk but recommends avoiding raw milk products or direct contact with such products.

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