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Canada is expanding surveillance and increasing testing for bird flu

OTTAWA – The Canadian government is expanding its surveillance program for a form of bird flu amid a growing outbreak among U.S. dairy cattle.

Fragments of highly pathogenic bird flu have been discovered in pasteurized milk sold in the US and a statement from Canadian health authorities says lactating dairy cattle imported from the United States will now require negative tests.

The statement says officials will conduct more intensive testing of milk at the retail level to look for viral fragments.

It says voluntary testing will also be available for cows that do not show clinical signs of HPAI, as part of “enhanced biosecurity efforts.”

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

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

It says if officials become aware of potential risks to food safety or animal health, immediate action 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 counterparts in the United States, are working together to actively monitor, prepare for and respond as necessary to these developing developing situation to help protect Canadian livestock and the health of the people of Canada,” the statement said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 3, 2024.

The Canadian Press