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CDC Confirms First Person Infected With Avian Flu

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the USDA confirmed that highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) was found in one person who had recently been exposed to sick dairy cattle in Texas. The risk to human health remains low.

Below is a full statement from the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) on this latest news from the CDC and USDA.

Dear Dairy Community,

Earlier today, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued two important updates on the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) (H5N1) virus in dairy cattle as well as one person.

CDC Updates – One Human Case Confirmed

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that a person in the United States has tested positive for the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) (H5N1) virus, as reported by the Texas Department of Health and Human Services. According to the CDC, the person had exposure to dairy cattle in Texas presumed to be infected with HPAI. The patient reported eye redness (consistent with conjunctivitis), as their only symptom, and is recovering. The patient was told to isolate and is being treated with an antiviral drug for flu.

CDC and Texas DSHS stated today that avian influenza (H5N1) viruses have only rarely been transmitted from person to person. As such, the risk to the general public remains low at this time. However, people with close or prolonged, unprotected exposures to infected birds or other animals (including livestock), or to environments contaminated by infected birds or other animals, are at greater risk of infection. USDA, FDA, CDC and state public and animal health agencies have issued guidance to dairy farmers underscoring the need for advanced biosecurity protocols to protect human and animal health and secure our nation’s food supply.

Pasteurized Milk & Dairy Remain Safe – Consumers Should Avoid Raw Milk

The USDA, CDC, FDA, and state of Texas affirmed again today that pasteurized milk and dairy products remain safe to consume. U.S. dairy products are pasteurized before entering the marketplace. Pasteurization is proven to inactivate bacteria and viruses, like influenza inclusive of avian influenza, in milk. Routine testing and well-established protocols for U.S. dairy also continue to ensure that only safe milk enters the food supply. The federal Grade “A” Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO) prohibits milk from sick cows from entering the food supply chain. Sick or affected dairy cows are segregated on farms, as is normal practice with any animal health concern, and their milk does not enter the food supply. Pasteurization is required for any milk entering interstate commerce for human consumption.

Additionally, USDA and FDA remind consumers that raw milk should not be consumed regardless of its availability. Raw milk is a key vehicle in the transmission of human pathogens, including E. coli O157:H7, Campylobacter, Listeria monocytogenes, and Salmonella, among others. As this situation continues to evolve, IDFA joins the USDA and FDA in strongly recommending that all raw milk and raw milk components be heat treated to a temperature and duration that kills harmful pathogenic bacteria and other microorganisms, including viruses inclusive of HPAI, regardless of the product’s intended use for human or animal consumption. FDA also recommends out of an abundance of caution that milk from cows in an affected herd not be used to produce raw milk cheeses.

Dairy Cows And Goats Test Positive For Deadly Avian Flu Virus

USDA Updates – Six Additional Herds Confirmed with HPAI

USDA also confirmed today HPAI H5N1 in a dairy herd in New Mexico, as well as five additional dairy herds in Texas. These cases were reported on March 29th by USDA as presumptive positive test results and are now confirmed as positives by USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL).  These confirmations are in addition to those made previously by USDA in dairy cattle herds in Texas, Kansas, and Michigan. The presumptive positive test results for the Idaho herd are still pending analysis at NVSL.

These latest confirmations were made via milk samples as well as nasal swabs and viral genome sequencing of the affected herds. USDA confirmed that the detections appear to have been introduced by wild birds; however, the Department continues to conduct an epidemiological investigation into how the virus is being spread among dairy herds and so far has no conclusive evidence. In the meantime, USDA strongly recommends limited or cautious movement of cattle.

Advanced Biosecurity Remains Paramount

IDFA is working with dairy industry partners as well as state and federal partners to educate farmers and the broader dairy industry about the need to increase biosecurity protocols. Advanced and stringent biosecurity protocols should be instituted on dairies across the country. HPAI is primarily spread by birds to animals, including mammals, and will spread on farms by people carrying matter from infected birds—such as dust, dander, and bird droppings—on their clothing, gloves, soles of their shoes, vehicle tires, animal trailers, and other equipment, in addition to contaminated water. As we learn more about vectors of transmission, guidance and resources may be expanded.

If farmers suspect their cows are sick, veterinarians should report illnesses to state vet authorities as soon as possible. USDA has told the dairy community and practitioners that cattle are expected to fully recover in a few weeks and there is no need to cull dairy cows as HPAI poses a low risk to human health. In the meantime, USDA strongly recommends limited or cautious movement of cattle, testing before moving cattle, and quarantining cattle upon arrival at their destination. USDA will continue to share information as they learn more.

Additional Information

According to federal officials, there are no expected impacts on the nation’s dairy supply at this time due to overlapping safeguards in place by U.S. dairy. Consumers in the United States and around the world can remain confident in the safety and quality of U.S. dairy.

IDFA is working with federal partners to ensure trading partners rely on the OIE-acknowledged, science-based food safety steps taken in U.S. dairy processing to preserve market access.

IDFA will continue to monitor this developing situation and share information as it becomes available.

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