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H5N1 – bird flu virus detected in beef in US

H5N1 – bird flu virus detected in beef in US

For the first time, avian flu virus has been detected in beef in the US (imago images / Cavan Images / Ashley Cooper)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has now announced that the virus was discovered during a routine inspection at a meat processing plant, but only in the meat of one cow. Meat is not sold. As a precautionary measure, the Ministry of Agriculture has indicated that the bird flu virus is killed by heat. Bird flu has already been detected in live dairy cows in nine states in the US. However, the invention of beef is new.

Bird flu has already led to the deaths of foxes and seals

The current bird flu outbreak began in 2020 and has already led to the deaths of tens of thousands of poultry animals. The virus also infects wild birds and is now found in land and sea mammals: foxes in Lower Saxony, seals in Chile and the United States, and elephant seals in Argentina. Seals, sea lions and elephant seals are particularly susceptible to the virus. Thousands of animals have already died.

The virus was found in a dead polar bear in Alaska, USA. In Poland, more than 20 cats died from H5N1 infection last year. Experts suspect that foxes, polar bears and cats ate the infected birds. Researchers fear that the highly contagious H5N1 virus will continue to mutate, and that over time, animals – and then even people – will infect each other on a large scale as they adapt to mammals.

WHO and the Union Health Minister do not currently see any risk to humans

While no cat owners in Poland are known to have their pets infected, there have been two cases in the US of people contracting the bird flu virus through contact with cows. Person-to-person transmission has not yet been reported. The World Health Organization has warned countries to be vigilant and against consuming raw milk. However, it underestimates the risk to public health. Union Health Minister Lauterbach sees no major risk for now. Lauterbach said the Robert Koch Institute keeps him up-to-date. Accordingly, there is currently no risk of infection.

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Epidemiological study on the Baltic Sea island of Reims

Researchers at the Friedrich Loeffler Institute of the Federal Institute for Animal Health have found that the bird flu virus can also spread to cows. An infection test in 2006 concluded that the cattle were not at risk. Now researchers on the Baltic Sea island of Reims want to infect cows with the H5N1 bird flu virus under strict safety precautions. In particular, the aim is to investigate how and why the virus is absorbed through the udder – a potential route of infection in the US. How the virus is transmitted to cows and how it spreads from cow to cow is still unknown. Experts suspect milking machines or air.

This message was sent on May 26, 2024 in the Deutschlandfunk program.