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Avian Influenza and Raw Milk

last month

As we’ve heard, avian influenza virus H5N1 is rather widely spreading through dairy cow herds and has been increasingly detected in milk.

Pasteurization inactivates the virus, so ordinary milk is safe, as far as we know. I don’t have any issues drinking it, albeit I only really consume milk in my latte.

Raw milk is potentially not safe - if from an infected dairy cow, the raw milk is likely to have a considerable load of active virus. It is not known if humans can contact the virus by drinking that milk, but there is some evidence that other animals can.

”researchers described a group of about two dozen cats that were fed raw milk from cows with avian influenza on a Texas dairy farm. More than half of the cats became ill and died; two of the deceased cats were tested and found to have been infected with the virus. It’s possible they were sickened by eating wild birds, but raw milk was “a likely route of exposure,” the researchers wrote.”

Cheese made from raw milk may or may not be safe, and it may depend on how the cheese is made. Basically unknown.

We are very early into this pandemic - so far a pandemic of birds and cows, not of humans. Many questions are unanswered. Neither the FDA, CDC, Dept of Agriculture, etc have much ability to monitor or control exposure of cows, dairy workers, or consumers.

Something to watch.

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