WebMD & CDC Explain Risks & Reassure Public on Food Safety Amid Bird Flu Outbreak 

United States: With the rising cases of bird flu among cattle in the US, WebMD, combined with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), presented a live-streamed briefing regarding the present status of the flu outbreak. 

The presentation was called “WebMD and CDC Presents, 2024 Bird Flu: What You Need to Know” and was moderated by Neha Pathak, M.D., chief physician editor for WebMD in Atlanta, Georgia. 

Reports presented by the expert group 

According to Eric Deeble, deputy assistant secretary for the Office of Congressional Relations at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Washington, D.C., the first of the reports about the sick dairy cows came around to the USDA in early March. 

The reports showed that after tests it was confirmed that cows had contracted H5N1, as commonly known avian influenza, or bird flu. 

Deeble mentioned, “Any new disease of cattle is a great concern to us,” according to Fox News reports. 

WebMD & CDC Explain Risks & Reassure Public on Food Safety Amid Bird Flu Outbreak. Credit | Adobe Stock
WebMD & CDC Explain Risks & Reassure Public on Food Safety Amid Bird Flu Outbreak. Credit | Adobe Stock

He added, “The H5N1 in cattle is a relatively mild disease. They generally recover after supportive care” within the period of two to three weeks and, “Their milk volume returns to normal, and they appear healthy and continue to feed as they did before they became sick.” 

Till now, the USDA reported detection of H5N1 in a total of 49 herds found across nine of the US states, as Deeble said. 

He said, “To put that into perspective, that’s around 1% of dairy farms in the affected states and about 1/10th of 1% nationally.” 

Furthermore, “Under this order, dairy farmers are required to test their cows before moving them across state lines so that we know those cows are H5N1-free and don’t pose a risk to any new herd,” noted Deeble. 

No risk with consuming milk and meat – Expert 

Deeble stated that there is no risk of consuming milk and meat on Thursday. He added, “I can say without reservation that our commercial milk and meat supplies are safe,” and, “At no time were animals that are sick from H5N1 or any other animal disease permitted to enter into our food supply,” as Fox News reported. 

According to him, “USDA has never detected H5N1 in meat sold at retail.” 

Tests conducted have made it clear that cooked meat at an internal temperature of 115 or above is enough to remove all traces of the viruses, as Deeble noted. 

And for the milk, the pasteurization process ensures its safety for drinking, he mentioned. 

He said, “Our milk is cleared to a high temperature for a brief period of time, inactivating H5N1, as well as other bacteria and viruses that could make someone sick,” as Fox News reported.