United States: The concerns and worries associated with bird flu and raw milk have been increasing with every passing day. Recently, experts have noted that the bird flu virus can stay on the surface and in raw milk, which is also known as unpasteurized milk, for approximately one hour.

The point was highlighted during the time when the infection spread across the United States, among poultry farms, dairy farms, and humans.

Experts warn dairy workers of an increased risk of infections!

According to the reports, the potential of bird flu to stay on a surface will increase the risk for dairy workers, especially during milking process. The experts have further mentioned that consumption of raw milk was not a focus of the study; however they have warned that live viruses do exist in raw milk.

Avian Flu and its spread among mammals!

Health experts have mentioned that the prime hosts of Avian influenza A (H5N1) are birds, but in certain cases, the virus may spread among mammals, too, including humans. This time, the scientists found the virus in cows in the US; since then, as many as 60 cattle herds have seen infected cows. Along with this, three (3) Americans have also tested positive for the infection.

Experts have claimed that all three cases were linked to getting infected by dairy cows. Out of the three, two developed eye infections as symptoms and one experienced mild respiratory symptoms.

It is to be noted that scientists are unsure about how the virus has been transmitted from cow to cow and from cow to human.

While explaining the matter, a microbiologist at the University of Pittsburgh – Valerie Le Sage, who also worked as lead author, stated, “In addition, how [H5N1] got into the cows in the first place is a question that is a little bit mind-boggling to scientists,” as reported by Live Science.

The conclusion of the study was published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, and it was published on June 24.

Researchers already knew that cows infected with H5N1 could release the virus in their milk. Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that about 1 in 5 milk products in stores had H5N1 genetic material. However, since these products were pasteurized, the viruses were not alive or infectious, as pasteurization kills most viruses and microbes.

However, it was unclear if the virus could stay infectious in unpasteurized milk. Because of this, the FDA advised people not to drink raw milk and told state regulators to stop the sale of raw milk from infected cows.

To find out if the H5N1 virus stays infectious in raw milk, Le Sage and her team collected raw milk samples, added H5N1, and monitored them for an hour. They placed the contaminated milk onto stainless steel and rubber surfaces from milking equipment.

After an hour, they discovered that the virus showed very little decay on these surfaces and remained infectious when exposed to cells in lab dishes.

While addressing the concern, Le Sage mentioned, “Because the virus remains stable on these surfaces, if they’re not cleaned up pretty soon after [contamination], the milk is just there with the virus in it.” She furthermore mentioned, “It does pose a threat to the dairy workers that are in the milking parlors,” the reports by Live Science claimed.

The experts have also claimed that they tried putting the live H5N1 viruses in a saline solution, but the pathogens died within an hour. Le Sage explained, “There is something about the milk that is making it [H5N1] more stable and allowing it to survive for longer periods of time. But we don’t know what component is causing this.”

The infectiousness of the virus has not been tested by the scientists due to the safety concerns of the staff present in laboratory. However, the lead author explained that it is important for dairy farmers to wear appropriate protective equipment while dealing with infected cows or birds.

In this regard, she was quoted saying, “Masks and face shields do their job. If workers were provided these and wore them, they should be protected,” as mentioned by Live Science.  It is noteworthy that a similar recommendation was shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) a few days back, as per reports by Live Science.

Along with her, the policy director at the nonprofit Center for Food Safety – Jaydee Hanson has also outlined that wearing protective gears will not help in reducing the risk of the catching virus as it is not 100 percent. But, “the good news is that if we do a proper job of pasteurizing the milk from these cows, it’s safe,” he outlined.

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