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Canadian borders on alert for avian influenza in dairy cattle

The Canadian government is expanding its surveillance program for a form of avian flu amid a growing outbreak in U.S. dairy cattle.

Fragments of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) have been detected in pasteurized milk sold in the United States and a statement from Canada’s health agencies said lactating dairy cattle being imported from the United States will now require negative tests.

Officials will be conducting enhanced testing of milk at the retail level to look for viral fragments. Voluntary testing will also be available for cows that are not presenting with clinical signs of HPAI, as part of enhanced industry biosecurity efforts.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said last week about 20 per cent of milk samples from across the country tested positive for fragments of avian flu.

The Canadian statement said commercially sold milk and milk products remain safe to consume and pasteurization of dairy products is effective in inactivating the virus that causes HPAI, even when fragments of the virus remain.

If officials become aware of any potential food safety or animal health risks, immediate actions will be taken to help protect Canada’s food supply and livestock.

“While the risk of transmission to humans remains low, the Government of Canada, the provinces and territories, as well as our colleagues in the United States, are working together to actively monitor, prepare and respond as necessary to this evolving situation to help safeguard Canada’s cattle and protect the health of people in Canada,” the statement said.

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