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Michigan health department warning residents not to drink raw milk. Here's why

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(CBS DETROIT) - Michigan health experts are warning residents about the risks of consuming raw milk as the highly pathogenic avian influenza continues to affect dairy herds in the state

The virus can spread to humans through the consumption of unpasteurized milk products.

"Anyone can get sick from drinking raw milk, but children under age 5, adults over age 65 and those with weakened immune systems are more at risk for getting sick," said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, chief medical executive. "Now that HPAI is infecting both cows and birds, it's important to make sure that you are consuming food that is safe, including ensuring that the milk products you eat or drink are pasteurized."  

Pasteurized milk undergoes a heating process that kills germs that cause diseases, including Campylobacter, E. coli, and Salmonella. 

People who consume products made using raw milk are at risk of contracting illnesses; however, milk products sold in stores and given in school lunches are all made from pasteurized milk. 

In addition, health experts say milk that someone consumes from the same farm they had previously drank from may not be safe. Even though it did not cause them to get sick previously, it could have become contaminated since then. 

Pasteurization inactivates bacteria and viruses, such as the avian influenza virus. 

Bird flu detected in Michigan dairy herds

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is reminding residents of the risks associated with drinking raw milk due to the highly pathogenic avian influenza, also known as the bird flu, being detected in several Michigan dairy herds. 

In March 2024, bird flu was detected in a dairy herd in Montcalm County. Since then, the virus has been detected in herds in Ionia, Isabella and Ottawa counties. 

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development released the following ways to prevent the spread of the bird flu:

  • Prevent contact between domestic and wild birds by bringing them indoors or ensuring their outdoor area is fully enclosed.
  • Wash your hands before and after handling birds as well as when moving between different coops.
  • Disinfect boots and other gear when moving between coops. 
  • Do not share equipment or other supplies between coops or other farms. 
  • Clean and disinfect equipment and other supplies between. If it cannot be disinfected, discard it.
  • Use well or municipal water as drinking water for birds. 
  • Keep poultry feed secure to ensure there is no contact between the feed/feed ingredients and wild birds or rodents.
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