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Raw milk enthusiasts are dead set on exposing themselves to the H5N1 aviary flu virus by drinking contaminated and unpasteurized cow milk, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Mark McAfee, who founded the Raw Milk Institute, told the newspaper that he's been getting inundated with calls from "customers asking for H5N1 milk because they want immunity from it."

It's a bizarre reality that flies in the face of a wealth of scientific evidence. We've known about pasteurization's ability to fend off germs and other pathogens for well over 100 years.

But that hasn't stopped a group of raw milk enthusiasts from seeking out untreated dairy in their search for purported immune system benefits.

It's an especially foolish idea considering there's a lot we still don't know about the current spread of the H5N1 virus. The first incident of the virus breaking out in dairy cows in the US was reported in March. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been infections in mammals across Asia, North America, South America, and Europe.

While scientists suspect it may be possible for the virus to be transmitted from mammal to mammal, the risk to humans is still not entirely understood. Given the wide geographic spread, the CDC suggests there could be an "increase in sporadic human infections resulting from bird and animal exposures," but that "the current risk to the general public from bird flu viruses is low."

In other words, intentionally seeking out being infected by the virus by drinking raw milk — something the CDC expressly advises against — is a bad idea.

"Deliberating consuming raw milk in the hope of becoming immune to avian influenza is playing Russian roulette with your health," UC Davis researcher Michael Payne told the LA Times. "Deliberately trying to infect yourself with a known pathogen flies in the face of all medical knowledge and common sense."

\The virus was detected in 36 dairy cattle herds across nine US states, but scientists have yet to find any evidence of the virus surviving in any pasteurized milk samples.

So far, there's been one case of a dairy worker in Texas who was infected. His symptoms didn't extend beyond a moderate case of pink eye.

"Every time it gets a new mammalian host species, like cows, there’s more risk of human transmission and reduced human immunity," Boston University environmental epidemiologist Jessica Leibler told Nature.

One study also examined dead barn cats at dairies in Texas and Kansas that were infected by the virus, suggesting that raw milk may be dangerous to other mammals. The research is similar to another study in which cats were infected with the virus.

"While there have been no known cases of human transmission of H5N1 from raw milk, it’s certainly conceivable that it could happen, and this is a highly fatal virus not just for cats but for humans too," said American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases chair Sean O'Leary said in a recent statement.

In short, drinking raw dairy milk is as bad of an idea as ever. While we still don't know the exact risks involved, it's an extremely ill-advised way to become immune — if that's even possible in the first place.

More on the avian flu: Polar Bear Dies From Bird Flu

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