Meeting Held With Officials Over Bird Illness

In a precautionary move over growing concerns around the potential for bird flu to infect humans, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a warning to local health officials across the United States. This warning, issued on Friday, comes amidst fears that the H5N1 bird flu virus, which has already shown its capacity to infect cattle across multiple states, could make the jump to humans, particularly those in close contact with infected animals.

The CDC also met with health officials, advising them to update their operating plans in case of an emergency.

To date, there has been only one reported case of H5N1 in a human in Texas. This individual, who presented with only one symptom – inflammation of the eye – is reported to be recovering well in isolation and is being treated with oseltamivir, commonly known as Tamiflu. Importantly, this patient is not believed to have transmitted the virus to others. However, the mutation found in this patient’s virus strain, while not currently altering the CDC’s risk assessment, underscores the unpredictable nature of viral genetics.

The CDC’s alert calls for “up-to-date operational plans” to be ready for immediate deployment, should more farm workers test positive. This directive aims to ensure that states can swiftly respond with testing and treatment for potentially affected individuals, particularly those working directly with cattle. With cattle on 16 farms across seven states – predominantly in Texas – testing positive for H5N1, the concern is tangible. Yet, officials have reiterated that the risk to the general public remains low, with the greater risk posed to those in direct contact with infected animals or equipment.

The meeting that catalyzed this warning was led by key figures in public health, including the CDC’s Deputy Director Nirav Shah and Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, known for his involvement in the national response to the mpox outbreak in 2022. Attendees included local health leaders and representatives from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, spanning all 50 states and Washington D.C.

This proactive stance by the CDC is part of a broader effort to manage the potential risks associated with H5N1, a virus that has infected a wide range of mammal species, from foxes and skunks to cats and even polar bears.

Beyond the immediate health concerns, the larger impact are the implications tied to the outbreak. The virus’s impact on cattle and poultry operations has led to the culling of millions of birds, a measure that has previously contributed to significant spikes in the prices of eggs and could potentially affect milk prices. While the risk of transmission through milk is considered low due to pasteurization processes, the withdrawal of milk from infected cattle from the supply chain poses a concern for price increases.

The last big outbreak saw egg prices peak at $4.82 a dozen, and some grocery stores like Costco were limiting the amount of eggs you could buy.


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