US to provide nearly $200 million to contain bird flu spread on dairy farms

Outbreaks have fuelled concerns about human infections
calendar icon 13 May 2024
clock icon 2 minute read

The Biden administration said on Friday it will provide nearly $200 million to fight the spread of avian flu among dairy cows, in the government's latest bid to contain outbreaks that have fuelled concerns about human infections with the H5N1 virus, reported Reuters

The virus has been detected among dairy cattle in nine states since late March. Scientists have said they believe the outbreak is more widespread based on US Food and Drug Administration findings of H5N1 particles in about 20% of retail milk samples.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) will make $98 million available to provide up to $28,000 per dairy farm for efforts to contain the spread of the virus between animals and humans and for testing milk and animals for the virus, the agency said on Friday.

"USDA is doing the work to track and eliminate H5N1 in the dairy cattle herd," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on a call with reporters.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said it would provide $101 million through the FDA and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to protect public health and the nation's food supply.

"The risk to the public from this outbreak remains low," HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said on the call.

The money includes $34 million through the CDC for testing efforts and supporting public health labs, $8 million for vaccines, and $3 million for wastewater surveillance.

While the CDC has said the public health risk is low, scientists are closely watching for changes in the virus that could make it spread more easily among humans.

The FDA also will provide $8 million to ensure the safety of the commercial milk supply.

“At this stage there’s no concern about the safety of the commercial milk supply or beef supply,” Vilsack said on the call. Health experts have cautioned against the consumption of raw milk but said pasteurization appears to kill the virus.

One dairy farm worker in Texas tested positive for the virus and reported conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye.

To limit transmission in cattle, the USDA on April 29 started requiring lactating dairy cows to test negative before being shipped across state lines.

In the first week of the order, USDA laboratories reported 905 tests, of which 112 were presumptive positives, said an agency spokesperson.

The figure could include samples that were tested more than once or those collected for other purposes like research studies, the spokesperson said.

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