FDA Finds Bird Flu Viral Fragments In 20% of US Milk Samples, Real Number Could Be Higher

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on Thursday that one out of every five pasteurized milk samples tested in a nationwide survey contained traces of the bird flu virus. The findings have raised concerns among experts about the true extent of the outbreak in the United States and its potential impact on the dairy industry.

The milk samples that tested positive for viral fragments were more likely to come from areas where infected dairy cow herds had been identified. The bird flu had been detected in eight states from across the country, and that’s 33 herds: Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Dakota, Ohio, and Texas.

However, Richard Webby, an influenza virologist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, believes that the high proportion of positive milk samples suggests a more widespread outbreak than currently reported. “Clearly there are more infected animals out there than being reported,” Webby wrote in an email, despite the official count of only “30-odd” infected farms.

The FDA’s announcement follows its initial report on Tuesday, which revealed the presence of viral fragments in commercially sold milk. This finding prompted the Agriculture Department to issue a federal order requiring all dairy cows to be tested for bird flu before being transported between states.

Despite the presence of viral fragments, health officials and experts maintain that pasteurized milk remains safe for consumption. The FDA detected only small pieces of the virus, not live, infectious virus, in the tested milk samples.

The revelation has sparked concerns about the true scope of the outbreak and its potential impact on the dairy industry. As the situation continues to evolve, the industry faces the challenge of maintaining consumer confidence while working to contain the spread of the virus among its herds. Experts are calling for increased surveillance and testing to better understand the extent of the outbreak and develop effective strategies to mitigate its impact on both animal health and the food supply chain.