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Monitoring the H5N1 avian influenza, bird flu, outbreak

Deb Balzer, Mayo Clinic News Network on

Published in Health & Fitness

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to actively monitor the ongoing outbreak of H5N1 avian influenza, also known as bird flu, and says that the public health risk remains low.

Dr. Matthew Binnicker, director of the Clinical Virology Laboratory at Mayo Clinic, says scientists and public health officials have known about avian influenza for decades.

"What's different today is that since 2020, we're seeing the largest outbreak of avian influenza among wild birds, poultry and backyard bird flocks," he says.

"The virus has also been found in certain mammalian species, most recently in dairy cattle, which is a little bit unprecedented and unique. And every time we see the virus go from birds into mammals, we worry about the virus adapting closer and closer to being able to infect and be transmitted efficiently between humans," Dr. Binnicker says.

Bird flu has been detected in the milk of dairy cattle, raising concerns for potential transmission to humans. The Food and Drug Administration found no traces of live virus in dairy products available to the public.

"The good news is that the pasteurization process used in the United States and many countries inactivates avian influenza. The milk that we drink, if it's been pasteurized, is safe. Any animal products, such as eggs, beef or chicken, that you would cook to the recommended internal temperature renders that product safe to eat," says Dr. Binnicker.

 

Food preparation tips

There are steps people can take to ensure their food remains safe from any viral or bacterial pathogen.

"As with any potential infectious disease associated with food, cooking to the recommended internal temperature that the CDC lists on their website is really important. And if you do that, you inactivate viruses like influenza, you inactivate bacteria and parasites that could cause a human infection," says Dr. Binnicker.

The CDC recommends using a food thermometer to ensure foods are cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature.

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