Virus close to infecting humans, experts warn – Executive Digest

For the first time, avian influenza was detected in the milk of dairy cows – on farms in Texas and Kansas and New Mexico, USA: tests were found to be positive for 'H5N1 type A'. The outbreak is the largest ever recorded in animals and has killed dozens of people worldwide since 2022.

According to the British newspaper 'The Daily Mail', the farmers noticed that their cows became ill three weeks ago, with symptoms such as lethargy and loss of appetite, and started producing significantly less milk. “We've never seen anything like this before. It looked like they had a cold,” said Texas Department of Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller. A goat in Minnesota has a positive case, and bird flu has been detected in foxes, bobcats, striped skunks, raccoons and coyotes since the 2022 outbreak.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) assures that there is no risk of contamination of the milk supply and the risk to the public is minimal. “There is no threat to the public and there will be no shortage of supplies,” Miller said in a statement. Milk from sick animals is diverted or destroyed, and pasteurization also kills viruses and other bacteria, making it mandatory for milk to be sold across state lines.

“At this point, the safety of the commercial milk supply or this situation poses a risk to consumer health,” the USDA said.

According to the central government, its tests on livestock have not detected any changes in the virus that can easily spread to people. However, while no mutation appears to be present this time, experts said the virus is more likely to acquire a mutation that allows the virus to go undetected longer in mammals, allowing it to infect people more easily.

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According to Thomas Moore, an infectious disease doctor at the University of Kansas, the infected goat in Minnesota represents a “complex development” because the virus has been shown to infect other mammals and even humans.

This was a different time from the outbreak of bird flu in birds, which required the culling of flocks to get rid of the virus. Since 2022, outbreaks have led to the loss of about 80 million birds in the United States.

So far, Michael Payne, a food animal veterinarian and biosecurity specialist at the Western Institute for Food Safety and Security at the University of California-Davis, says dairy cows appear to be affecting about 10% of infected herds. “It doesn't look anything like avian flu,” he stressed.

Bird flu has already been reported in 48 different species of mammals, Payne noted, “and it's only a matter of time before avian flu reaches ruminants.”

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