There’s never a good time to drink raw milk. But now’s a really bad time as bird flu infects cows

“I absolutely wouldn’t go anywhere near raw milk in terms of consuming it ... ”

STAT NEWS – Scientists who know about the types of pathogens — E. coli and Salmonella among them — that can be transmitted in raw milk generally think drinking unpasteurized milk is a bad idea.

But right now, they believe, the danger associated with raw milk may have gone to a whole new level.

“If I were in charge, for the moment I would forbid the selling of raw milk,” said Thijs Kuiken, a pathologist in the department of viroscience at Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, who has done research on H5N1 and the damage it inflicts for about two decades.

H5N1 bird flu has been circulating in dairy cow herds in multiple parts of the country, likely for months now.

Testing of milk from infected cows shows the virus is present in concentrations that have taken scientists by surprise.

“Getting sick from raw milk can cause diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, stomach cramping, and vomiting. Less commonly, it can lead to meningitis, kidney failure, paralysis, chronic disorders, and even death.” – Washington State Department of Health

They worry that if a raw-milk consumer inadvertently drank milk from infected cows, the results could be bad — potentially really bad.

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“I absolutely wouldn’t go anywhere near raw milk in terms of consuming it,” said Richard Webby, an influenza virologist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.,

St Jude’s laboratories have been involved in testing to see if evidence of H5N1 RNA can be found in commercially purchased milk — it can — and whether live virus can be grown from pasteurized milk containing H5N1 RNA. So far it looks like the answer to that question is no.

While the Food and Drug Administration bans the interstate sale and distribution of raw milk, rules surrounding its use in an individual state are set by the state legislature.

Some ban the sale of raw milk for human consumption; others allow it under a variety of circumstances …

“Of course, we don’t know what a lethal dose, or even infectious dose, is in humans. But it makes absolutely no sense to me that you’d want to try [raw milk].” 

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