US To Test Ice Cream And Butter For H5N1 Bird Flu Virus

Bird flu has infected dozens of dairy herds in the US


3 Minutes Read

Dairy cows, many of whom have been infected with bird flu in the US, hooked up to milking machines There have been some cases of bird flu in dairy farm workers in the US - Media Credit: Adobe Stock

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has expanded its tests of dairy products to check for the presence of the H5N1 bird flu virus. It will collect samples from grocery store products such as butter, ice cream, and cream cheese as the virus continues to spread through dairy herds across the country.

Read more: Bird Flu Pandemic ‘Very Likely’, Warns Former CDC Director

Recent tests on raw milk collected from farms revealed traces of H5N1 in a significant proportion of samples. The FDA and US Department of Agriculture (USDA) replicated commercial milk processing to determine if it was sufficient to kill the virus. The tests showed that standard pasteurization time and temperature requirements were effective. This reflected the FDA’s initial testing of 297 samples of pasteurized dairy products from grocery stores which were negative for the virus.

A selection of ice cream at a supermarket
Adobe Stock Ice cream will be tested for bird flu

The new round of testing is intended to fill in data gaps on geographical regions and different types of dairy products. Around 155 products will be tested, and they will be taken from large supermarket chains across the US. If any are found to contain bird flu, they will be tested further to check if the virus is active and capable of infecting humans.

While authorities say that study results so far strongly suggest pasteurized milk products are safe, they advise people against consuming raw milk.

Cats infected through milk

So far, three human dairy farm workers are known to have been infected with H5N1 during the dairy cow outbreak. All had mild symptoms and have recovered. But cats who drank raw milk from infected cows in Texas in April were not so fortunate.

Of 24 cats who lived on the Texas farm, more than half died, while the survivors suffered severe symptoms including blindness, bloody diarrhea, and neurological problems.

Read more: Man Dies After Contracting H5N2 Bird Flu In First Recorded Case

Cats have transmitted the virus to each other, and public health experts have warned that domestic cats are a potential route for avian flu to infect humans. Several zookeepers and animal shelter workers have previously caught different strains of bird flu from cats they were looking after. Cat guardians in the US are advised not to feed cats raw milk products and to monitor their outdoor activity in case they hunt infected birds or mammals.

Read more: Bird Flu Has Reached Antarctica – Is Your Diet Killing Penguins?

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