FDA Warns Bird Flu Virus Found in Pasteurized Milk

(RightWing.org) – On April 1, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a press release announcing that a Texas patient tested positive for avian influenza, informally known as H5N1 bird flu. Medical officials isolated the infected person and administered an antiviral drug. The CDC didn’t upgrade H5N1’s risk assessment for the general public, opting to keep it at “low.” The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently confirmed the presence of bird flu virus particles in pasteurized milk.

On April 21, the FDA updated its safety information page for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). H5N1 is a specific subtype of the influenza A virus categorized by health officials under HPAI if it mutates into a strain capable of causing severe clinical symptoms, including death, in the hosts they infect.

The notice stated that the FDA, CDC, and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) had continued investigating the recent outbreak of HPAI, which affected dairy cows in several states. Based on the currently available information, those federal agencies and local partners determined that the country’s milk supply is safe due to ongoing efforts to divert or destroy milk from infected cows and the pasteurization process.

The FDA explained that even if the HPAI virus is detected in raw milk, pasteurization, the process of heating milk for a set period, “is generally expected to eliminate” those pathogenic elements to the point they no longer present a health hazard to consumers.

According to the FDA, roughly 99% of the country’s milk supply originates from dairy farms participating in the agency’s Grade ‘A’ milk program and following the protocols detailed in the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO) Centennial. Nevertheless, the USDA has reported that although “pasteurization is likely to inactivate” HPAIs, the process isn’t expected to “remove the presence of viral particles” in milk processed under PMO protocols.

As a result, some trace particles of HPAI have been detected in pasteurized milk using quantitative polymerase chain reaction testing. But, the FDA advised that “to date,” officials hadn’t detected any risks to consumer health that would alter the agency’s previous determination that America’s “commercial milk supply is safe.”

The FDA concluded its notice by stating that it recognized the importance of transparency and would release the results of several studies in the coming “few days to weeks.”

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