Concerns Over Bird Flu Outbreak


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In the month following the federal announcement of a bird flu outbreak on dairy farms, authorities have sought to allay fears regarding the impact on the nation’s food and milk supply. However, recent updates suggest a more serious situation than initially believed.

Spread Among Cows and Poultry

An obscure online update from the Department of Agriculture disclosed evidence of the virus spreading among cows and from cows to poultry. Notably, North Carolina officials have identified bird flu infections in a cattle herd with no visible symptoms, indicating a potentially wider spread of infections than previously acknowledged.

Whether asymptomatic animals exist elsewhere remains uncertain, as the U.S.D.A. does not mandate testing for infection in cattle. Recent developments include the department’s decision to reimburse farms for testing cows without symptoms, a departure from the previous policy.

Federal authorities have shared limited genetic information about the virus with select groups, aiding in understanding its evolution and spread. However, concerns remain regarding the lack of active monitoring of infections in pigs, known hosts for flu viruses, often in proximity to cattle. Despite this, officials maintain confidence in the safety of milk production without substantial data to support this claim.

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