US health officials have warned that dairy workers are still vulnerable to the H5N1 bird flu spreading among cows and should take precautions to avoid infection. They cited a case where a dairy worker experienced an eye infection and underwent genetic testing, confirming the presence of the virus, according to a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Tim Uyeki and Texas health officials.

US officials advise dairy workers to protect against H5N1 bird flu infection(Unsplash)

The infected worker received oral antiviral treatment and reported only minor eye discomfort the day after testing.

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What precautions should dairy workers follow?

• Dairy workers are advised to use protective gear

• They should maintain hand hygiene

• Seek medical attention promptly if symptomatic.

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Bird flu in dairy cattle

• Avian flu strain H5N1 has infected dairy cattle in 36 herds across nine US states this year.

• The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) detected fragments of H5N1 in one out of every five commercial milk samples tested.

• The USDA is testing beef for H5N1 amid concerns about potential transmission to humans.

• H5N1 has been spreading among birds, with various forms having different infection potentials.

• The virus found in a dairy worker had a mutation associated with infections in mammals and previously detected in humans.

• The worker and cattle pathogen primarily retained avian genetic characteristics. No changes in the virus facilitated easier transmission to humans or resistance to antiviral drugs.

• H5N1 has pandemic potential, according to the CDC.

• There are two potential vaccine candidates showing promise in preventing H5N1 infections.

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Is milk safe to consume?

According to the FDA, pasteurized milk and cooked beef are considered safe for consumption.

Read in detail- Bird flu outbreak: Can people catch the infection from milk and eggs? What experts say

The US FDA found bits of bird flu virus in pasteurised milk, but they’re not infectious and don’t harm consumers. Experts assure there’s no bird flu risk from properly cooked or pasteurized food.

(Inputs from Bloomberg)

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