Avian influenza could spread to cows outside US – WHO

A World Health Organisation (WHO) official said on Tuesday there was a risk of H5N1 avian influenza virus spreading to cows in other countries beyond the United States through migratory birds, reported Reuters

US officials are seeking to verify the safety of milk and meat after confirming the H5N1 virus in 34 dairy cattle herds in nine states since late March, and in one person in Texas.

“With the virus carried around the world by migratory birds, certainly there is a risk for cows in other countries to be getting infected,” said Wenqing Zhang, head of WHO’s Global Influenza Programme at a news briefing in Geneva.

She reiterated that the UN agency deems the overall public health risk posed by the virus to be low but urged vigilance.

Asked to evaluate US transparency on the outbreak so far, Zhang said the global body had received regular updates and praised a decision to share the virus genetic sequence early.

“I do think the collaboration with US CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the information we’ve received so far enables us to monitor the situation and to update the preparedness measures,” she said.