US Agriculture Department announces new measures to stop the spread of bird flu 

In late March, outbreaks of bird flu (H5N1) were initially observed among dairy cattle nationwide. As the virus spreads, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has implemented measures aimed at stopping its transmission, including all dairy cattle being tested for bird flu before interstate travel.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are investigating these outbreaks to keep consumers safe when it comes to potentially contaminated dairy products.

Recent findings suggest that traces of the virus have been detected in pasteurised milk samples on store shelves. However, the FDA clarified that while pasteurisation doesn’t entirely eradicate the virus, it effectively neutralises any harmful traces. 

In light of these developments, the FDA advises against consuming raw milk, which bypasses the pasteurisation process. The presence of bird flu virus remnants in raw milk products poses risks to consumers.

In a statement, the USDA wrote: “USDA has identified spread between cows within the same herd, spread from cows to poultry, spread between dairies associated with cattle movements, and cows without clinical signs that have tested positive. The novel movement of H5N1 between wild birds and dairy cows requires further testing and time to develop a critical understanding to support any future courses of action. 

This Federal Order is critical to increasing the information available to the USDA. Requiring positive test reporting will help the USDA better under this disease and testing before interstate movement will limit its spread. The FDA and USDA have indicated that based on the information currently available, our commercial milk supply is safe because of these two reasons: 1) the pasteurization process and 2) the diversion or destruction of milk from sick cows.”

The USDA’s Federal Order, effective April 29th, mandates the following criteria for interstate movement of dairy cattle:

  • Dairy cattle must test negative for influenza A at an approved National Animal Health Laboratory Network lab.
  • Compliance with all guidelines outlined by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is mandatory for dairy cattle travelling between states.
  • Labs detecting positive influenza A tests in dairy cattle must promptly report them to the USDA and APHIS.

Ongoing research by regulatory agencies continues to explore the bird flu’s implications for consumer dairy products and associated health risks. However, the FDA maintains that the current commercial milk supply doesn’t pose a threat to consumers’ health.

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