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Is it Safe to Drink Milk in India? WHO Warns of H5N1 Bird Flu Strain

Learn about the concerning H5N1 bird flu that is spreading to cows, according to World Health Organization (WHO) reports.

H5N1 Bird Flu: On Friday, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that large amounts of the H5N1 avian flu virus strain had been discovered in raw milk from animals that had been infected; however, it is still unclear how long the virus has been present in milk.

Rise of Avian Influenza A(H5N1)

Avian influenza A(H5N1) first appeared in 1996, but since 2020, there has been a notable increase in bird outbreaks, and more and more mammals are increasingly becoming infected with the virus. Tens of millions of chickens have died as a result of this, and infections have also been reported in wild birds and terrestrial and marine mammals.

Experts who had previously believed that cows and goats were immune to this type of influenza were taken aback when these species were added to the list of afflicted animals last month. According to the New York Times, the avian flu pandemic in cows has impacted at least 13 herds across six states.

There were first reports of sick cows in Texas and New Mexico. On some of these farms, dead birds were also discovered, and laboratory examinations revealed that some of the cows had bird flu.

Human Infection Linked to Cattle Exposure

US officials said earlier this month that a person who had been exposed to infected cattle on a dairy farm in Texas was recovering from bird flu. “The case in Texas is the first case of a human infected by avian influenza by a cow,” said Wenqing Zhang, head of the global influenza programme at the World Health Organization.

“Bird-to-cow, cow-to-cow and cow-to-bird transmission have also been registered during these current outbreaks, which suggest that the virus may have found other routes of transition than we previously understood,” she told a media briefing in Geneva.

This event represents the second instance of bird flu infection in humans in the US, following cases in herds that were presumably exposed to wild birds. “Now we see multiple herds of cows affected in an increasing number of US states, which shows a further step of the virus spillover to mammals,” Zhang said.

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