Biden Admin Struggling to Reassure Americans Against Bird Flu Spread

The Biden administration and the US dairy sector are trying to allay public fears about the spread of the avian flu virus among cattle.

It seems the virus may have expanded beyond sick dairy cows. The Food and Drug Administration said that 1 out of 5 retail milk samples tested positive for inactive traces of the virus.

Since it was first discovered in cattle in Texas at the end of March, at least 33 cases of the disease have been reported in eight different states. However, virologists say that data shows a far smaller distribution. One individual has tested positive for the virus so far: a dairy worker from Texas who contracted conjunctivitis, more commonly known as pink eye.

According to federal authorities and industry leaders, the presence of inactive pieces of the H5N1 virus strain in consumer milk is a sign that the pasteurization process is successfully neutralizing the virus, so there’s no need to be concerned. Public health professionals caution that many questions remain, however, since the transmission of avian flu to cattle has never occurred before. Along with other farmers and parliamentarians, they now demand that the government speedily increase its testing and research efforts and make the resulting data public as soon as possible.

To reiterate that the commercial milk supply is safe, the USDA, FDA, and CDC released a joint statement on Tuesday. The authorities stressed the need for pasteurization in milk to stop the spread of the avian flu virus to people. The federal government is in a mad dash to finish the testing, which will include a battery of procedures, including laboratory analysis and sampling of milk and other dairy products at several points in the production and retail supply chains.

Although the general population has a “low” risk of infection from the avian flu pandemic, farmworkers and those often exposed to dairy cows have a “low-to-moderate” risk, according to the World Health Organization. Through groups like UFW and UFW-Long Island, the CDC and USDA are trying to educate farmworkers about the dangers and how to avoid them.