public health

Few dairy farmers seek bird flu funds from USDA

Only a handful of U.S. farms — 18 in all — are accepting federal funds to quash the outbreak of the H5N1 avian flu virus among dairy herds that began three months ago, according to the Agriculture Department. (No paywall)

H5N1 virus was spread by cattle, people and shared equipment

After the H5N1 avian flu virus jumped from birds to dairy cattle in Texas last December, it was spread across the country by infected cows, contaminated machinery, and people who inadvertently carried the virus on their clothes and footwear from farm to farm, said USDA scientists on Thursday. Officials said the risk to the public was low because the virus has not shown signs of adapting to humans. “We should be, as we are, alert, not alarmed,” said Nirav Shah, the CDC’s principal deputy director.

Inspector general slams FDA handling of infant formula recall

The FDA lacked or had inadequate policies in place to identify risks to the infant formula supply chain when it received complaints about production at a plant in Sturgis, Michigan, said an inspector general’s report on Thursday. Months passed before the FDA warned consumers in February 2022 not to use some of the products made at the Abbott Laboratories plant, leading to a formula shortage.

Block sales of raw milk that may contain H5N1 virus, FDA asks states

To reduce the risk of bird flu infections, state health officials should bar the sale of raw milk to consumers if it contains the H5N1 avian flu virus, said the Food and Drug Administration on Thursday. Although the FDA has long warned that raw milk is a high-risk food that may carry disease-causing pathogens, more than 30 states allow the sale of unpasteurized milk from the farm, in retail stores, or through so-called cow shares.

Bird flu infects dairy herd in Iowa, 10th state to be hit

A dairy herd in northwestern Iowa is infected with the H5N1 avian flu virus, said state agriculture secretary Mike Naig on Wednesday. He called on dairy and poultry farmers to “harden their biosecurity defenses” against the virus.

In a first, farmworker infected with bird flu has respiratory symptoms

A farmworker in Michigan is the first person to experience respiratory symptoms after contracting bird flu from dairy cows infected with the H5N1 virus, said Michigan officials on Thursday. It was the third U.S. case of cow-to-human transmission and the second in Michigan. The Centers for Disease Control said the risk to the general public remained low.

FDA reorganization elevating food oversight is approved

A reorganization of the FDA that included the appointment of its first deputy commissioner for human foods has been approved after months of preparation and is targeted for implementation on Oct. 1, said the agency on Thursday.

Dairy worker in Michigan has bird flu in second case of cow-to-human infection

A worker on a Michigan dairy farm contracted a mild case of H5 bird flu from infected cattle — the second cow-to-human infection since bird flu was first identified in dairy cattle in late March — said the Centers for Disease Control on Wednesday. The risk to the public remains low, said Nirav Shah, the CDC’s principal deputy director.

GOP farm bill puts SNAP savings into trade and horticulture programs

House Agriculture Committee chair Glenn Thompson would funnel $10 billion in food stamp cuts into an expansion of trade promotion and horticulture programs as part of the new farm bill, said Republican staff workers on Thursday. One of them called opponents of SNAP cuts “hunger weirdos” who “use poor people as props.” (No paywall)

USDA study shows cooking kills bird flu virus in meat

In tests conducted by USDA scientists, the H5N1 bird flu virus did not survive in hamburgers cooked to internal temperatures of 145 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit, said the Agriculture Department on Thursday. “These results validate that [Food Safety and Inspection Service] recommended cooking temperatures are sufficient to kill H5N1 in meat,” it said.

USDA and HHS allot $199 million to quash bird flu threat to cattle and humans

The Biden administration poured $199 million into the fight against the H5N1 bird flu virus, which was identified in cattle for the first time seven weeks ago, a worrisome step closer to people. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said dairy farmers are eligible for up to $28,000 in USDA aid in three months to help eradicate the virus from their herds, and Health Secretary Xavier Becerra announced new funding among public health agencies to "test, treat, prevent" the virus from spreading.

CDC urges states to give PPE to farmworkers as bird flu safeguard

States should open their stockpiles of personal protective equipment for distribution to farmworkers, with top priority for dairy farms where cows are infected with the H5N1 bird flu virus, said a Centers for Disease Control official. Meanwhile, the Agriculture Department confirmed six additional cases of bird flu in cattle on Thursday, ending a 12-day pause in new cases.

‘Absolute barrier’ against spread of bird flu virus is impossible, says Califf

The agriculture and food industry is entering an era of stepped-up precautions against the spread of the H5N1 bird flu virus now that it has appeared in cattle for the first time, said FDA commissioner Robert Califf at a Senate hearing on Wednesday. “Unfortunately, there is no absolute barrier that can be created,” he said.

H5N1 virus was undetected for months in dairy cattle, researchers say

Genetic testing indicates the H5N1 bird flu virus jumped from wild birds to dairy cattle in Texas approximately four months before it was identified in late March, said a nationwide team of researchers. “Continued transmission of H5N1 HPAI [highly pathogenic avian influenza] within dairy cattle increases the risk for infection and subsequent spread of the virus to human populations.”

FDA clarifies its approach to biotech animals

The Food and Drug Administration, the lead U.S. regulator of genetically engineered animals, issued two documents to clarify its risk-based oversight of the creatures and their developers. The agency exercises varying levels of scrutiny, ranging from full-scale review of an animal and its risk profile to instances in which developers can take an animal directly to market without consulting the FDA.

Bird flu virus likely travels from cow to cow via milk, says USDA

The “primary vector” for transmitting the H5N1 bird flu virus from dairy cow to dairy cow seems to be milk from an infected animal, said the USDA’s chief veterinary officer on Wednesday. Dr. Rosemary Sifford also said the USDA was considering whether to offer compensation to dairy farmers for cooperating in the investigation of the disease and for adopting stronger biosecurity safeguards.

USDA mandates bird flu tests of dairy cows before transport

Dairy farmers will be required to test their cattle for the H5N1 bird flu virus before shipping them across state lines, announced Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Wednesday as the government tries to prevent the spread of the disease and learn more about how it is transmitted. The virus, a lethal threat to poultry, has moved from cow to cow, herd to herd, and cow to poultry, and has appeared in cows with no symptoms.

USDA assesses vaccine to protect cattle from bird flu virus

The Agriculture Department said its research agency “has begun to assess the potential to develop an effective vaccine” against the H5N1 bird flu virus in cattle, although it warned that it is too early to say how long the process would take. The virus has so far infected 29 dairy herds in eight states, though there have been no detections in commercial beef herds since the disease was identified in cattle in late March.

Administration calls for full WIC funding in 2024

Congress should provide an additional $1 billion for the Women, Infants, and Children nutrition program in January when it votes on funding for the USDA and several other federal departments, said Biden administration officials on Wednesday.

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