WHO Raises Alarm As Strain Of Bird Flu Found In Milk

WHO Raises Alarm As Strain Of Bird Flu Found In Milk

The World Health Organization (WHO) raised an alarm on Friday, announcing that the H5N1 bird flu virus strain, which emerged prominently in 1996, has been detected in very high concentrations in raw milk from infected cows and goats.

This revelation comes as cows and goats were identified last month as new hosts for the virus, challenging prior understanding of the disease’s spread.

Avian influenza A(H5N1), known for causing significant mortality in poultry and wild birds, has seen a marked increase in outbreaks since 2020, with the virus now infecting a broader range of mammals. T

This development raises concerns about the potential for new transmission pathways and the implications for both animal and human health.

The detection of the virus in milk adds another layer of complexity to the ongoing outbreaks, especially with the recent confirmation of a human case in Texas, where a dairy farm worker was infected through exposure to cattle.

This case represents the first known instance of bird-to-human transmission via a cow, highlighting a potentially novel route of virus transmission.

The head of the WHO’s global influenza program, Wenqing Zhang, at a media briefing in Geneva, stated, “Bird-to-cow, cow-to-cow, and cow-to-bird transmission have also been registered during these current outbreaks, which suggest that the virus may have found other routes of transition than we previously understood.”

The United States has seen multiple herds of cows affected, with the virus now detected across an increasing number of states.

Despite the high concentration of the virus in raw milk, Zhang reassured that the risk to the commercial milk supply remains low.

“The cattle infections do not present a concern for the commercial milk supply, as dairies are required to destroy milk from sick cows and pasteurization processes effectively kill the virus,” she explained.

Since 2003, the WHO has recorded 463 deaths from 889 human cases of H5N1 across 23 countries, maintaining a case fatality rate of 52 percent.

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