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Multiple agencies issue alerts on 'highly pathogenic avian flu' after detection in milk

The World Health Organization urged the public not to consume raw milk, and the FDA said although they're not common, sporadic human infections have occurred.
H5N1 experimental influenza vaccine.
Posted at 6:09 PM, Apr 26, 2024

Multiple U.S. agencies issued new warnings on Friday about the concerning spread of a highly pathogenic avian influenza strain that public health officials are calling highly contagious.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said tests of commercial milk samples have showed the presence of H5N1 virus fragments, though the milk is still safe to drink because it has been pasteurized.

The World Health Organization acknowledged that there were concerns with making sure the commercial milk supply stays safe.

Public health officials are urging the people not to consume raw milk, recommending instead to stick to pasteurized milk.

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The FDA said in its assessment of geographically targeted samples, the commercial milk supply was deemed to be safe at this time. The agency also said it tested "several samples" of retail powdered milk infant formula and powdered milk products marketed as formula for toddlers and found all of the results to be negative with no detection of viral fragments.

The FDA said there was no uptick of human cases of flu and no cases of H5N1 beyond known cases related to direct contact with infected cattle. The FDA says that bird flu viruses do not normally infect humans, but that sporadic human infections have occurred.

The label “highly pathogenic” refers more to H5N1's severe impact on birds, the agency said, and not "necessarily" in humans.

The WHO said there have been unprecedented numbers of deaths in wild birds and outbreaks in domestic poultry. Around the world detections of H5N1 viruses in non-avian species (wild or domestic, and mammals on land and sea) have increased. This includes most recently goats and dairy cattle in the United States, the global health agency said.