CDC getting ready for potential higher risk to human health from bird flu

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is taking precautions in response to a bird flu outbreak among dairy cows and two confirmed human cases. In a summary released on Friday, they acknowledged the potential for an increased risk to human health.

The federal health agency, however, reassured that the risk of bird flu, also known as avian influenza, to people in the U.S. is currently low. Furthermore, there is no evidence of person-to-person transmission in the U.S.

In late March, federal and state public health officials initiated an investigation into an illness affecting primarily older dairy cows in Kansas, New Mexico, and Texas. The cows were experiencing symptoms such as decreased lactation and low appetite.

Two cases of bird flu have been confirmed in the United States. The first case was reported in a farm worker in Texas, while the second case was identified in a Michigan farm worker who had regular contact with birds infected with the virus.

According to the CDC, the two human patients only experienced eye redness as their symptoms, and fortunately, both have fully recovered.

According to the CDC, over 350 individuals who have had contact with dairy cows or consumed unpasteurized cow’s milk have been under observation as of May 22. They were able to identify the Michigan case by closely monitoring farm workers on a daily basis. It is important to note that individuals working in agriculture, particularly farm workers, are at the greatest risk of contracting bird flu.

Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that bird flu is being transmitted between individuals.

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The CDC summary stated that while the current A (H5N1) viruses are not easily transmissible among humans, there is a possibility that these viruses could undergo changes that would make them more adept at infecting and spreading among people, which could potentially lead to a pandemic.

According to Dawn O’Connell, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the Department of Health and Human Services, federal health officials have taken proactive measures by filling approximately 4.8 million doses of bird flu vaccine into vials through their national stockpile. This is part of their ongoing preparedness efforts in case the need for vaccination arises.

“This week, she expressed that this step serves to further enhance our state of readiness.”

According to Dr. John Brownstein, an epidemiologist and chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital, as well as an ABC News contributor, the government’s preparedness efforts serve as a proactive approach rather than a reactive one.

According to the expert, it is crucial for public health to remain proactive and vigilant. He emphasizes the importance of actively searching for potential signals and utilizing all available data to identify any changes. While public health authorities dedicate significant resources to staying on guard, this should not lead to unnecessary worry among the general public.

HHS collaborated with a manufacturing partner to carry out the “fill and finish” process while ensuring that the production of the seasonal flu vaccine was not affected. According to O’Connell, the vaccine is a good match for the currently prevalent strain of H5N1.

According to the CDC, it is crucial to maintain an enhanced flu network during the spring and summer months. This includes increasing the number of specimens for further testing, ongoing surveillance, and urging clinicians to consider bird flu as a possibility when evaluating patients who have conjunctivitis or respiratory illness after being exposed to agriculture or livestock. The federal government has not expressed any immediate concerns regarding this matter.

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Moreover, experts have detected traces of the virus in milk samples. However, after testing, it was concluded that pasteurization effectively neutralizes the virus. It should be noted that raw milk, which has not undergone pasteurization, can harbor harmful bacteria that may lead to illness.

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