June 17, 2024

Raw Milk Consumption May Put People at Risk of Avian Influenza

Raw milk consumption may put people at risk of catching Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (H5N1), according to the Oregon Health Authority. This virus, also known as the bird flu, has now started infecting dairy cattle across the country.

Raw Milk Consumption May Put People at Risk of Avian Influenza

Dean Sidelinger, M.D., M.S.Ed., health officer and state epidemiologist at OHA, said in a statement, “We know that if H5N1 is present in the milk of infected dairy cattle, it will be killed by pasteurization. Drinking raw milk carries many health risks, and those risks may now include H5N1 infection.”

The FDA has tested 297 retail milk sample from 38 states for the H5N1 virus. About 20% of those samples tested positive for viral fragments, but none contained the live infectious virus because it is destroyed through pasteurization.

There are 49 outbreaks in dairy cattle in nine states as of May 16, 2024, according to the FDA. And the virus is believed to be more widespread in dairy cattle than current testing suggests.

Pasteurized milk is very safe. The heating process kills disease-causing bacteria, such as E. coli, Listeria monocytogenes, and Salmonella, as well as viruses such as the bird flu and norovirus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those who drink unpasteurized milk are at risk for many illnesses.

Raw milk can be contaminated in many ways. Good safety practices on the farm can reduce the chance of bacteria and viruses getting into raw milk, but they cannot eliminate all risk.

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