Canada’s milk supply still clear of bird flu amid growing problem in U.S.

Click to play video: 'Canada is testing retail milk for bird flu'
Canada is testing retail milk for bird flu
WATCH: Canada is testing retail milk for signs of bird flu to see if any dairy cattle are infected. Infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch talks about the risks to humans and what that would mean for the industry – May 21, 2024

Following the announcement of another human case of bird flu linked to dairy cows in the United States this week, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has confirmed that Canada’s milk supply remains free of avian flu fragments.

On Thursday, the CFIA reported that 303 retail milk samples from across Canada were tested, all of which came back negative for Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza or “HPAI” fragments. The agency found no evidence of the disease in dairy cattle.

“Negative results mean that HPAI fragments are not present in milk. This supports current reports that the virus has not been detected in Canadian dairy cows,” the CFIA statement said.

Click to play video: 'Health Matters: CFIA steps us avian influenza surveillance'
Health Matters: CFIA steps us avian influenza surveillance

The tests were completed on May 16 and involved:

Story continues below advertisement
  • 77 tests in Atlantic provinces
  • 76 tests in Quebec
  • 75 tests in Ontario
  • 75 tests in Western provinces
The latest health and medical news emailed to you every Sunday.

The CFIA said for testing it used a type of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test and the method used to test milk for HPAI is very sensitive and is able to detect fragments of the virus, even if the virus is not infectious.

“Commercially sold milk and milk products remain safe to consume. In Canada, milk must be pasteurized before sale. The pasteurization process kills harmful bacteria and viruses, including HPAI, ensuring milk and milk products are safe to drink and eat,” the CFIA added.

The testing results come a day after U.S. health officials announced that a Michigan farmworker has been diagnosed with bird flu, marking the second human case linked to an outbreak in U.S. dairy cows.

The first was reported in early April, after a farmworker in Texas was diagnosed in what officials called the first known instance globally of a person catching this version of bird flu from a mammal. That patient reported eye inflammation and was treated with an antiviral drug.

Click to play video: 'Australia, U.S. report second bird flu cases in humans'
Australia, U.S. report second bird flu cases in humans

On Wednesday, Australia also reported its first human case of avian influenza in a child who authorities said had been infected in India but made a full recovery.

Story continues below advertisement

Since 2020, a bird flu virus has been spreading among more animal species — including dogs, cats, skunks, bears and even seals and porpoises — in scores of countries. The detection in U.S. livestock earlier this year was an unexpected twist that sparked questions about food safety and whether it would start spreading among humans.

In the wake of the spread, the Canadian government has expanded its surveillance program for avian flu testing. Lactating dairy cattle imported from the U.S. now require negative tests. And voluntary testing will also be available for cows that are not presenting with clinical signs of HPAI, as part of “enhanced industry biosecurity efforts.”

— with files from the Associated Press and Reuters

Sponsored content