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Bird flu outbreak at US dairy farms cause public health concerns

Bird flu Los Angeles: The ongoing bird flu outbreak at US dairy farms has heightened concerns among public health experts as more dairy herds have tested positive for the virus in recent months.

The influenza A (H5N1) virus, commonly known as bird flu, is widespread in wild birds worldwide and has been circulating in US poultry since 2022, reports Xinhua news agency.

However, the situation escalated in late 2023 when the virus is believed to have jumped from birds to dairy cows at a Texas farm.

This was followed by a human infection in April linked to exposure to infected cattle. To date, three human cases of infection have been reported, bringing the total number of US H5N1 cases to four, including one case in 2022 linked to poultry exposure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The virus had been confirmed in at least 115 dairy herds across 12 states as of Thursday, according to the latest tally posted on the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service website.

In a new study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), researchers found “small, detectable amounts of infectious (H5N1) virus remained in raw milk samples with high virus levels” when treated at 72 degrees Celsius for 15 seconds — one of the standard pasteurisation methods used by the dairy industry, according to an NIH press release last week.

The CDC noted that while the current public health risk is low, it is watching the situation carefully and working with states to monitor people with animal exposures.

But public health experts have paid attention to the government’s slow response and inadequate testing.

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