‘Be prepared,’ CDC tells state leaders after bird flu found in Texas

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday they met with state health officials in Georgia and across the country, telling them to prepare for more human cases of bird flu after an employee from a Texas dairy was treated for the virus.

While saying the risk to the public is low, the federal agency is urging state leaders to put “up-to-date operational plans” in place in case more farm workers test positive for the flu.

The CDC issued a health alert Friday asking doctors to test any agricultural workers who have been exposed to infected birds or other animals. Agricultural workers should be monitored for signs and symptoms of illness from their first exposure and for 10 days after their last exposure. Those who have worked within six feet of infected animals should be tested for the virus, even if they have no symptoms, according to the CDC.

The CDC also said state health departments should notify the CDC within 24 hours of identifying a case.

The advisory followed news on April 1 that a dairy cow worker in Texas had become the first person in the United States to catch this version of avian flu – known as highly avian influenza. pathogen (HPAI) – from a mammal, federal health officials said. said.

So far, at least 16 dairy herds in the country’s six states (Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, New Mexico, Texas and Ohio) have tested positive for the flu, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The highly pathogenic H5N1 virus and related strains of the virus have killed hundreds of millions of wild and domestic birds and many species of wild mammals worldwide in recent years. But this is the first time the virus has been detected in cattle, according to the CDC.

The dairy worker is only the second human case of bird flu in the United States. In 2022, a worker on a poultry farm in Colorado tested positive for the virus but recovered. This person reported fatigue for a few days as the only symptom.

Credit: AP

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Credit: AP

Georgia Department of Public Health spokeswoman Nancy Nydam said several employees attended Friday’s meeting with the CDC, including epidemiologists, laboratory workers and a public health veterinarian. She said DPH has a strong partnership with the Georgia Department of Agriculture and “much of the avian flu planning already exists.”

“We will work to formalize the plans and expand them as necessary to other areas such as emergency preparedness, GPHL (Georgia Public Health Laboratory), nursing and communications as appropriate,” he said. she said in an email.

Officials say the virus has not mutated to the point where it can spread easily between people, but experts worry about the potential for viral evolution.

The CDC said workers with close, prolonged contact with infected animals are at the greatest risk of infection. For these workers, the CDC recommends additional precautions outlined in the “Recommendations for Farmers; » Owners of poultry, backyard birds and livestock; and worker protection.

The vast majority of people infected with bird flu contracted it directly from birds, but scientists are wary of any changes that could increase the risk to humans. There were some reports of person-to-person spread within a family in Southeast Asia after a family member caught the virus from poultry.

Federal health and USDA officials released a statement last week emphasizing that there “remains no concerns” about the safety of the commercial milk supply because dairy products are pasteurized before being released. ‘enter the market, adding that agencies continue to monitor the situation. Pasteurization is required for all milk entering interstate commerce for human consumption.

What’s the last one?

— A Texas dairy worker tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1, or bird flu, becoming the second U.S. case of a human contracting the virus since 2022.

— This is the first time that this virus has been detected in cows and it appears to be the first case of transmission of avian flu from cows to humans. There are currently no signs of person-to-person spread of this virus.

— Existing antiviral flu medications, such as Tamiflu, are effective against the virus.

— The CDC recommends wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) when farmworkers or hobbyists are in direct or close contact (within six feet) of sick or dead animals, including poultry, wild birds, flocks of backyard birds or other animals, animals. fecal matter, litter or materials potentially contaminated with HPAI viruses.

— This is an emerging and rapidly evolving situation that the CDC is monitoring closely. At this time, the CDC believes that the overall risk posed by this virus to the general public remains low.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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