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USDA will test ground beef in supermarkets

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Risks, symptoms, safety of milk and eggs

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There has been a global outbreak of H5N1 bird flu since 2020, but recent outbreaks among livestock in several US states have experts concerned that the virus could mutate and eventually spread to humans, where it has proven rare but deadly – and the USDA has started pilot projects. beef in supermarkets.

Key facts

The global bird flu H5N1 outbreak started in 2020 after a resurgence of birds in Europe and led to the deaths of millions of birds, but it has evolved to infect more and more mammals (on land and in the sea), meaning it could potentially spread to humans , said Jeremy Farrar, chief scientist for the World Health Organization.

A wider variety of mammals are dying from bird flu, with experts also concerned that bird flu could mutate to infect humans more easily: the first report from a walrus A deadly bird flu disease was discovered on one of Norway’s Arctic islands on Monday, and the first American dolphin infected with bird flu died in 2022, according to a report published on Friday.

As of April 26, more than 90 million poultry (mostly chickens) in 48 states have been euthanized due to bird flu since 2022, and 34 herds of dairy cows in nine states have tested positive, according to facts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (unlike chickens, cows seem to be recovering of the virus).

First the Ministry of Agriculture detected bird flu in dairy cows in March, and she believes the cows became ill after coming into contact with infected birds, although this was confirmed in a study update As of last week, cow-to-cow transmission through infected unpasteurized milk may also be a factor.

One in five milk samples collected from supermarkets across the country tested positive for dead remains of bird flu – results were higher in areas where cow outbreaks occurred – although the Food and Drug Administration advises that these remains do not pose a threat and pasteurized milk continues to be used. safe to drink because the pasteurization process kills the live virus.

However, the FDA warned against consuming raw milk, prompting some experts to do so phone call for a ban on the sale of raw milk because it could ‘make people seriously ill’; the interstate sale of raw milk illegalbut some states such as Texas, Idaho and New Mexico – all of which have bird flu outbreaks among dairy cows –allow it.

The USDA told Forbes on Monday that it will begin testing ground beef samples from grocery stores in states with cow outbreaks, as well as testing ground beef cooked at different temperatures and contaminated with the virus to determine if it is safe to eat .

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Can bird flu spread between people?

Bird flu is not ‘easily transmitted from person to person’ according to to the World Health Organization. Bird flu rarely affects humans, and most previous cases resulted from close contact with infected poultry. according to to the CDC. Because the spread of bird flu from person to person has ‘pandemic potential’, each case in humans is examined to rule out this type of infection. Although none have been confirmed, there have been a few global cases – none in the US – where human-to-human transmission of bird flu was thought to be ‘likely’, including in China, Thailand, Indonesia And Pakistan.

Is bird flu fatal to humans?

It’s very deadly. According to a study, there have been 888 human cases of bird flu infection in humans between January 2003 and March 28, 2024. report by the World Health Organization. Of those 888 cases, 463 (52%) died. So far, only two people in the US have contracted the H5N1 bird flu, and both became infected after coming into contact with sick animals. Most recent case was a dairy worker in Texas who became ill in March after interacting with sick dairy cows, although he only suffered from pink eye. The first incident happened in 2022 when a person in Colorado contracted the disease from infected poultry and made a full recovery.

Is it safe to drink milk contaminated with bird flu?

Raw, unpasteurized milk is unsafe to drink, but pasteurized milk is fine. according to to the FDA. Bird flu has been found in both unpasteurized and pasteurized milk, but the FDA advises manufacturers against making and selling unpasteurized milk because there is a possibility that consuming it could cause a bird flu infection. However, the virus remains in pasteurized milk have been deactivated by the heat during milking pasteurization processso people still think that this type of milk is safe to consume.

Is it safe to consume meat contaminated with bird flu?

The CDC warns against eating raw meat or eggs contaminated with bird flu due to the possibility of transmission. However, no human has ever become infected with bird flu by eating properly prepared and cooked meat. according to to the agency. The possibility of contaminated meat entering the food supply is “extremely low” due to strict inspections, so properly handled and cooked meat is safe to eat. according to to the USDA. To know when meat is properly cooked, whole cuts of beef must be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit, ground meat should be 160 degrees and poultry should be cooked to 165 degrees. Rare and medium rare steaks fall down this temperature. Properly cooked eggs with an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit kills bacteria and viruses, including bird flu, according to to the CDC. “It doesn’t matter whether they did or not [avian]

influenza… runny eggs and rare cuts of meat” are never recommended, Francisco Diez-Gonzalez, director and professor of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia, told Forbes. To “play it safe,” consumers should only eat fully cooked eggs and ensure that “the yolks are firm and do not contain any liquid parts,” says Daisy May, a veterinarian at the British company Medivet, said.

What are symptoms of bird flu in humans?

Symptoms of bird flu include fever, cough, headache, chills, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, runny nose, congestion, sore throat, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, pink eye, muscle aches and headache. However, the CDC advises the diagnosis cannot be made based on symptoms alone and laboratory tests are required. This usually involves swabbing the nose or throat (the upper airways) or the lower airways in critically ill patients.

How does bird flu affect egg prices?

Egg prices have risen this year as production fell due to bird flu outbreaks in poultry, according to to the USDA. A dozen large Grade A eggs in the US cost approx $2.99 in March, almost a dollar more than in the fall. However, this price has fallen from the record high of $4.82 in January 2023, which was also increased by bird flu outbreaks. Earlier this month, Cal-Maine Foods, the nation’s largest egg producer, was temporarily incorporated stopped egg production after more than a million laying hens and chickens were killed after being infected with bird flu.

Why do poultry farmers kill chickens with bird flu?

Once chickens are infected with bird flu, farmers quickly kill them to help check the spread of the virus, as bird flu is high contageous and fatal in poultry. The USDA pays farmers for all birds and eggs that must be killed due to bird flu, as an incentive to responsibly try to stop the spread of the disease. The USDA has spent more than $1 billion in bird flu compensation for farmers since 2022, according to the nonprofit Food & Environment Reporting Network.

Is there a vaccine against bird flu (h5n1)?

The FDA did that approved some bird flu vaccines for people. The US has a stockpile of vaccines against H5N1 bird flu, but this would not be enough to vaccinate all Americans if an outbreak among humans were to occur. If a human outbreak occurs, the government will do this plan to produce vaccines at scale, which could take at least six months to make enough for the entire population. Sequirs, the maker of one of the approved vaccines, expected to have 150 million vaccines ready within six months of the declaration of a human bird flu pandemic. Nevertheless, there are approved vaccines for other variants designed for birds, there are no vaccines for the H5N1 variant in circulation. However, the USDA started trials on animal-specific H5N1 vaccines in 2023.

Important background

Experts have recently become convinced that the virus is spreading among livestock and can mutate and spread more easily in humans, although the CDC says it is a risk to the public. remains low. Farrar called the livestock infections in the US a “major concern” and urged public health officials to continue to closely monitor the situation “as it could evolve into transmission in a number of ways.” The increased number of bird flu infections in mammals since 2022 “could indicate that the virus is looking for new hosts and is obviously moving closer to humans,” said Andrea Garcia, American vice president of science, medicine and public health. Medical Association. said. More than 10 In 2023, cases of human bird flu were reported to the World Health Organization, and all but one survived. Bird flu has devastated bird populations, with 67 countries reporting deaths 131 million poultry alone in 2022. Although bird flu typically infects wild birds and poultry, the disease is spread to other animals during the outbreak, or at least 10 countries have reported outbreaks in mammals since 2022. About 17,400 Baby elephant seals died of bird flu in Argentina in 2023, or at least 24,000 sea ​​lions died in South America that same year. In addition to livestock, bird flu has also been detected 200 other mammals – such as seals, raccoons and bears – in the US since 2022. Although rare, even pets such as dogs and cats are susceptible to the virus, and the FDA warns against giving unpasteurized milk to cats to prevent possible transmission.

Read further

WHO warns that threat of bird flu spreading to humans is ‘major concern’ (Forbes)

One in five milk samples from across the US showed traces of bird flu virus, FDA says (Forbes)

Can pets get bird flu? Here’s what you need to know (Forbes)

Bird flu (H5N1): Why experts worry – and what you need to know (Forbes)