Raw Milk Study Shows Potential Danger of H5N1 Avian Flu Virus Transmission – Experts Caution Against Drinking Unpasteurized Milk

Madison, Wisconsin – A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine highlights the potential risks associated with consuming unpasteurized milk containing H5N1 avian flu viruses. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, showed that mice fed milk from H5N1-infected cows became severely ill.

While the study cannot definitively determine the effects on humans who consume raw milk with the virus, experts emphasize the probable risks involved. Michael Osterholm, from the University of Minnesota, stated that raw milk is highly suspected of transmitting the virus to animals and that the risk to humans remains unclear.

Thijs Kuiken, a pathologist at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, Netherlands, emphasized the potential dangers based on existing evidence from studies on H5N1 viruses. He mentioned reports of farm cats dying after drinking contaminated milk during the current outbreak in dairy cattle.

The Food and Drug Administration has consistently warned against drinking raw milk due to the presence of various dangerous pathogens such as E. coli, Salmonella, and Listeria. The agency reiterated this warning in light of the recent outbreak of H5N1 in dairy cattle, which has affected 58 herds in nine states and led to two human infections in farm workers.

The study, led by influenza virologist Yoshihiro Kawaoka, involved feeding raw milk to mice and simulating different pasteurization methods to test the effectiveness of inactivating pathogens. While one approach successfully killed all the virus in the milk, another method only reduced the virus levels to low amounts.

Researchers also observed minimal reduction in virus levels in raw milk stored at refrigerator temperature for several weeks, indicating that the virus could remain infectious for an extended period in these conditions. Additionally, they found H5N1 virus in the mammary glands of mice, highlighting the vulnerability of lactating cows to the virus.

Overall, the study underscores the potential dangers associated with consuming raw milk contaminated with H5N1 avian flu viruses and reinforces the importance of following safety guidelines when handling dairy products.