Beware! H5N1 Bird flu is spreading in cows, how to protect from infections

The news that bird flu virus traces were found in pasteurized cow milk in the US has made people worry if it could affect humans. But experts say there’s not much risk of getting sick from contaminated food. On Tuesday, April 23, 2024, US authorities said they found these traces during a big study. But they believe the milk samples aren’t harmful to people’s health.

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H5N1 Bird flu is spreading in cows, how to protect from infections

The avian flu strain H5N1 has affected dairy cows in 36 herds across nine US states this year. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found bits of H5N1 in one out of every five commercial milk samples tested. The USDA is checking beef for H5N1 due to worries about it spreading to humans.

H5N1 has been moving between birds, with different types having various infection abilities. The virus found in a dairy worker had a mutation linked to infections in mammals, like humans. But the worker and cattle virus mostly kept their bird-like traits. No changes were making it easier for humans to catch it or making it resistant to antiviral drugs. According to the CDC, H5N1 could cause a pandemic. Two potential vaccines might help prevent H5N1 infections

Cats died from infected H5N1 Bird flu cows’ milk 

A report published on April 30 in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Emerging Infectious Diseases journal looked closely at highly pathogenic avian influenza. This flu strain, HPAI H5N1, began spreading among cows earlier this year.

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Tests showed that some cats had bird flu after drinking raw milk at the first dairy farm where avian influenza was found. The farm noticed its cows getting sick, and soon after, several cats fell ill too. Sadly, before anything could be done, the cats died, according to reports.

Dairy workers are warned to take precautions for H5N1 Bird flu

Health officials in the US are cautioning dairy workers about the risk of catching the H5N1 bird flu from infected cows and advising them to take steps to stay safe. They mentioned a case where a dairy worker got an eye infection, and tests showed the virus was present. 

This information comes from a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine by Tim Uyeki from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Texas health officials. The infected worker got treatment with oral antiviral drugs and only had slight eye discomfort the day after the test.

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