US bird flu outbreak: 4th human case identified, as USDA tests dairy products for the virus

By Liis Hainla. Published: July 2024.
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The US Food and Drug Administration (USDA) will take samples from grocery store products like butter, ice cream and cream cheese to check for the H5N1 bird flu virus. 

The move follows a growing outbreak of the virus on dairy farms across the US. Traces of H5N1 have already been found in samples of raw milk. Tests recently conducted by the USDA indicate that standard pasteurisation should be sufficient to kill the virus. But the latest round of testing will fill in data gaps related to geography and types of dairy product. 

Around 155 products will be tested, taken from supermarket chains across the US. If any are found to contain traces of bird flu, they will be tested to see if the virus is capable of infecting humans. 

Just two days ago, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) confirmed a fourth human case of bird flu had been identified in Colorado. The person received treatment and has since recovered. 

The new case “does not change CDC’s current H5N1 bird flu human health risk assessment for the U.S. general public, which the agency considers to be low”. The CDC continues to urge people to take recommended precautions in instances of exposure to infected animals. 

However, people will understandably be concerned by the growing number of cases. 

Mere weeks ago, a former CDC director warned that a bird flu pandemic was “very likely”: a question of when, not if. The risk of a deadly pandemic bolsters the argument for fundamental change to our food system – since industrial farming is linked to current and past bird flu cases. If cattle populations become a “permanent reservoir” for the virus, as some scientists fear, it would give the virus more chances to mutate and one day make the “jump” to humans.

But instead of pushing for radical change, US institutions are choosing to bolster the current system. The US Department of Agriculture is now accepting applications to reimburse dairy farmers who have incurred milk losses due to the bird flu outbreak.

My name is Liis. I have been a vegan for a long time and I advocate for the vegan lifestyle. Through Vegan Avenue, I aim to provide quality information about vegan products and bring attention to amazing vegan companies.