CDC Updates Guidelines Amid Rising Avian Flu Cases in Humans

CDC Updates Guidelines Amid Rising Avian Flu Cases in Humans

About ten days ago, after a second human case of Highly Pathogenic Avian Flu was announced, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revised its markup on the issue, not the message. Avian flu has been a cruel master since it first infected a commercial chicken flock in the United States in early 2022, killing 85.8 million birds in 48 states.

The USDA claims to have the world’s most effective avian influenza surveillance program. The disease has also killed 9,253 wild birds across 50 jurisdictions. Recently, the CDC has been utilizing color cartoons to communicate the word that “infected poultry can spread bird flu to humans.” Human infections with avian flu viruses are uncommon but conceivable.

The CDC’s “protective actions for people” include the following recommendations:

  • Avoid close contact with wild birds and just observe them from a distance.
  • Do not make touch with any deceased birds, and please report any sick or dead birds.
  • Take precautions with other animals suspected of having HSN1 bird flu.
  • Food is safe to eat if properly handled and cooked.
  • The CDC has not implemented any travel restrictions due from the avian flu epidemic.
  • Seasonal flu shots will minimize the chance of contracting avian flu.

The two human avian flu cases occurred months apart: a Colorado poultry worker and a Texas dairy farm employee. Both have recovered. Local health officials have been advised to keep an eye out for any additional cases. The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service discovered highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in a commercial flock in the United States on February 8, 2022.

Since then, APHIS has sought to identify and respond to detections, as well as to reduce the virus’s impact on US poultry production and commerce. Detections are more common in the fall and spring because wild birds continue to carry the virus when they move to their seasonal homes. APHIS continues to work closely with the states.

To put this in context, the United States has around 368.2 million egg-laying chickens. USDA estimates show that more than 9.5 billion broiler chickens and 208 million turkeys were processed in the United States in 2022.

In talks, the CDC advised state officials to keep their bird flu operational plans up to date. The most recent human case of avian flu in the United States has the following facts:

  • A Texas resident tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) A(H5N1) virus (“H5N1 bird flu”). This is only the second reported incidence of H5N1 bird flu in the United States; the first occurred in a poultry worker in Colorado in 2022.
    This lady in Texas worked with dairy cows that were likely contaminated with H5N1 avian flu viruses.
  • This is the first time the virus has been detected in cows, and it would be the first case of bird flu spreading from cow to person. Since the first confirmed case in Texas, infected dairy herds have been detected in eight states.
  • The CDC analyzed the influenza viral genome from a patient in Texas and compared it to previously sequenced H5N1 viruses. The virus discovered from this individual is nearly comparable to that seen in cows and birds in Texas. There are no alterations associated with antiviral drug resistance, and the virus is closely linked to two other candidate vaccine viruses.
  • This virus does not appear to be spreading from person to person at this time.
  • This is a developing and constantly evolving scenario that the CDC is closely monitoring. The CDC considers that the virus’s overall danger to the general public is minimal.

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