Canada is testing retail milk for bird flu. So far, no sign of spread

In light of increased concerns over bird flu fragments discovered in American dairy cattle and their milk supply, Canadian authorities have launched nationwide testing efforts.So far, all retail milk samples tested have returned negative for the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

The CFIA on Tuesday released a statement saying it tested 142 retail milk samples across Canada, and to date, all have returned negative for bird flu fragments, with no evidence of disease in dairy cattle.“Negative results mean that HPAI fragments are not present in milk. This supports current reports that the virus has not been detected in Canadian dairy cows,” the CFIA said in the statement.“Commercially sold milk and milk products remain safe to consume. Milk from dairy cows in Canada must be pasteurized before sale. The pasteurization process kills harmful bacteria and viruses, including HPAI, ensuring milk and milk products are safe to drink and eat.”Avian influenza, commonly known as bird flu, originates from influenza viruses that primarily circulate among wild aquatic birds, with the potential to infect domestic poultry and various animal species. While transmission to humans is possible, such occurrences are infrequent.

Although bird flu fragments have not been detected in Canada, in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is closely watching for changes in the virus that could make it spread more easily among humans. Last week the CDC announced it plans to post data on influenza A found in wastewater in a public dashboard that could offer new clues into the outbreak of bird flu cattle herds.The bird flu has been detected among U.S. dairy cattle in nine states since late March. Federal officials said they believe the outbreak is more widespread based on U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) findings of H5N1 particles in about 20 per cent of retail milk samples last month.In the wake of the spread, the Canadian government has expanded its surveillance program for avian flu testing. Lactating dairy cattle imported from the U.S. now require negative tests. And voluntary testing will also be available for cows that are not presenting with clinical signs of HPAI, as part of “enhanced industry biosecurity efforts.”

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