Raw Milk Containing Bird-Flu Virus Can Sicken Mice, Study Finds


A recent study has raised concerns over the potential health risks associated with consuming raw milk that has been exposed to the bird-flu virus. Researchers have discovered that mice fed with raw milk containing the bird-flu virus exhibited symptoms of illness, indicating that the virus can survive in unprocessed milk and potentially affect those who drink it.

The study was conducted in a controlled laboratory setting, where researchers introduced the bird-flu virus, also known as avian influenza, to raw milk. The infected milk was then given to a group of lab mice, while another group received uninfected raw milk as a control. Over a period of observation, the mice that consumed the contaminated milk displayed signs of sickness such as weight loss, lethargy, and respiratory distress—symptoms commonly associated with influenza infections in mammals.

These findings challenge the widely-held belief that avian influenza viruses are restricted to birds and cannot live outside of a high-temperature pasteurization process commonly used in dairy production. Pasteurization is known to effectively kill pathogens in milk, making it safe for consumption. However, raw milk enthusiasts often prefer their milk unpasteurized due to claims of better taste and nutritional properties.

The implications of this study are significant for public health, particularly for individuals who consume raw milk or products made from unpasteurized milk. The research suggests that if a dairy herd were to become infected with the bird-flu virus, there is a possibility that the virus could be transmitted through their raw milk. This poses a risk not only for direct consumers but also for individuals who might come into contact with such products or those involved in their processing.

Mandatory pasteurization laws exist in many regions around the world to ensure dairy safety; however, some areas still allow the sale of raw milk directly to consumers. This study serves as an important reminder of why food safety standards, including pasteurization, are vital protective measures against zoonotic diseases—those that can jump from animals to humans.

Further research is required to ascertain whether these results can be replicated in human subjects and what concentration of the virus would pose a health threat. It remains unknown if the conditions under which this study was conducted perfectly mimic those found on farms or in dairy markets.

Consumers are routinely cautioned against drinking raw milk due to various health risks including exposure to bacteria such as E. coli and listeria. With this new evidence suggesting another pathogen could be present in unpasteurized milk products, additional scrutiny and potentially stricter regulations on the sale of raw milk could be on the horizon as public health officials work to prevent possible outbreaks stemming from contaminated dairy products.

The study underscores the importance of ongoing surveillance and research into foodborne illnesses and serves as an impetus for consumers and regulators alike to reconsider practices surrounding raw milk consumption and handling. As scientists continue to investigate the link between infectious diseases and food supplies, it becomes increasingly crucial for consumers to make informed choices about what they eat and drink.


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