Bird flu confirmed in dairy and beef cows across nine states

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A farm worker in Texas tested positive for the bird flu and is the only person to test positive for the H5N1 at this time. He went to a health department seeking treatment for conjunctivitis and tested positive.

These findings have spurred concern over the safety of the nation’s milk and beef supply. While bird-to-mammal spread is rare, what complicates this issue is that some farms where the flu was found won’t let CDC onto the properties to conduct further testing.

Will Humble, Executive Director at Arizona Public Health Association, joined “Arizona Horizon” to provide more details about the bird flu pandemic. Humble also wrote a blog post about the topic.

H5N1 was a new version of the influenza strain which appeared around 2020. The virus is deadly for birds, especially domestic flocks. 

Humble described the process of how the virus spreads from birds to animals. 

“You’ve got farmers who use chicken feces and spread it out into the pasture. It’s good fertilizer, but the virus is full if the birds are infected. The virus is in those feces, and then it’s in the pasture and the cows can get it that way,” said Humble.   

There are some side effects when the cows are infected with the virus including a decrease in milk production, and they eat less. However, it’s not a fatal infection for the cow. 

People should not be concerned about becoming infected with the virus. Most influenza cases come from birds, and then infect pigs. 

“Pigs have similar respiratory receptors to humans. It mutates in the pigs, and then humans get it after it’s changed in the pig,” said Humble. 

CDC is currently testing the meat of the cow and milk for the virus. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) needs to spend more time on testing than CDC, according to Humble. 

“It’s really USDA’s job more than it is the CDC,” said Humble. 

Pasteurization is a key component when it comes to humans drinking milk so they don’t become infected with the virus. 

“The immediate concern is to make sure that the meat and the dairy supplies in the states that have the infections are okay,” said Humble. 

Will Humble, Executive Director at Arizona Public Health Association

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