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Bird Flu in Raw Cow's Milk Makes Mice Ill Study Report

Washington: A recent study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, conducted by researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Texas A&M, revealed alarming findings regarding the transmission of highly pathogenic avian influenza virus HPAI H5N1 through raw cow's milk. The study highlighted that mice, fed droplets of raw milk from infected cattle, exhibited high levels of the virus in their lungs, indicating potential risks to humans who consume unpasteurized milk.

Over the past few years, HPAI H5N1 has expanded its reach, infecting more than 50 animal species, including dairy cattle in the United States since March. Currently, 52 herds across the country have been affected, with two reported human infections among farm workers who developed mild symptoms, such as pink eye.

The researchers administered raw milk droplets from infected cattle to five mice, leading to signs of illness, including lethargy. Subsequently, the mice were euthanized four days later for organ analysis. High levels of the virus were detected in their nasal passages, trachea, and lungs, with moderate-to-low levels found in other organs.

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Professor Rowland Kao, a veterinary epidemiology expert at the University of Edinburgh, emphasized the growing popularity of raw milk consumption and the varied regulations governing its sale across US states. While the study's findings raise concerns about the systemic infection of mice due to ingesting infected milk, it does not conclusively prove the same risk for humans, although it heightens the possibility.

The study also confirmed that heating raw milk to high temperatures effectively destroys nearly all virus particles within seconds, rendering it safe for consumption. However, refrigeration alone was found to have limited efficacy in reducing virus levels in infected raw milk over time.

Furthermore, a nationwide survey of pasteurized milk samples indicated the absence of viable virus, while inactivated virus, incapable of spreading or infecting hosts, was detected in approximately 20 percent of retail samples.

These findings underscore the importance of pasteurization in mitigating the risk of pathogen transmission through milk consumption and highlight the need for stringent food safety regulations to protect public health.

May 25, 2024 10:56 a.m. 510

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