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Michigan officials warn against raw milk amid bird flu outbreak



Michigan officials warn against raw milk amid bird flu outbreak

Public health officials in Michigan are once again warning against drinking unpasteurized, raw milk, this time because of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) that has been found in dairy herds.

The virus has been found in dairy cattle in eight states, including Michigan. It has also been found in wild mammals and birds, as well as in domestic chicken flocks. Millions of chickens had to be destroyed due to the outbreak.

Two cases of infection with the virus have been confirmed in people in the United States and patients have been identified in other countries.

Michigan health officials remind the public that pasteurization kills viruses like HPAI but survives in raw milk.

“With HPAI infecting both cows and birds, it is important to make sure you are consuming foods that are safe, and also make sure the dairy products you eat or drink are pasteurized,” said Michigan’s Chief Medical Executive Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian.

“Anyone can get sick from drinking raw milk, but children under 5, adults over 65 and people with weakened immune systems are at greater risk of getting sick.”

Pasteurized milk is extremely safe and has undergone a heating process that kills disease-causing germs such as Campylobacter, E. coli and Salmonella. People who consume raw (or unpasteurized) milk, cheese and other dairy products, such as ice cream made from raw milk, are at risk for a variety of diseases. Only pasteurized milk is sold in stores and provided to children during school lunches in Michigan.

People can get sick from the same source and product of raw milk that they previously drank. Milk that a person consumes from the same farm over a period of time may not always be safe. Raw milk can become contaminated in many ways. While good safety practices can reduce the chance of germs getting into raw milk, they cannot eliminate the risks, according to the Michigan Public Health Department.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration currently has no concerns about the safety or availability of pasteurized milk products nationwide. Pasteurization has been consistently proven to inactivate bacteria and viruses, such as influenza viruses, in milk and is required for all milk entering interstate commerce.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends taking the following steps to reduce the risk:

  • Choose pasteurized milk and dairy products.
  • Store milk, dairy products and other perishable foods in the refrigerator at 40 degrees F or colder.
  • Throw away expired food, including milk and dairy products.

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