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CDC, WebMD give update on current bird flu outbreak: ‘Be alert, not alarmed’

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As bird flu continues to spread Among U.S. cattle, WebMD and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) teamed up Thursday to provide a livestreamed briefing on the outbreak.

The presentation, titled “WebMD and CDC Presents 2024 Bird Influenza: What You Need to Know,” was moderated by Neha Pathak, M.D., chief physician editor at WebMD in Atlanta, Georgia.

The USDA first received reports of disease in dairy cows in early March, said Eric Deeble, deputy assistant secretary for Congressional Affairs at the USDA in Washington, D.C.

Experts reveal whether it’s safe to drink milk as bird flu spreads

Tests revealed that the cow was infected with H5N1 (commonly known as H5N1). avian influenza, or avian influenza;.

“The emergence of new diseases in cattle is of great concern to us,” Deeble said at a news conference.

WebMD and the CDC released updates Thursday as avian influenza continues to spread among cattle in the United States. (Getty Images)

“H5N1 infection in cattle is a relatively mild disease. Cattle generally recover within two to three weeks with supportive care,” he said.

“Her milk production has returned to normal, she appears healthy and continues to breastfeed as well as before she became ill.”

“The emergence of new diseases in cattle is of great concern to us.”

To date, the USDA has detected the H5N1 virus at 49 dairy farms in nine states, Deible said.

“To put that in perspective, this represents about 1% of the affected state’s dairy farms, and about one-tenth of 1% nationally,” he said.

On April 29, a federal order from the Department of Agriculture went into effect restricting the movement of lactating dairy cows for the purpose of monitoring and compiling H5N1 test results.

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“This order requires dairy farmers to test their cattle before moving them across state lines to ensure they are not infected with H5N1 and do not pose a risk to new herds.” Deeble said.

The order also requires that test results that detect the presence of H5N1 be reported to USDA laboratories.

Experts say there is currently no risk to food

Deeble assured viewers on Thursday that there is no risk from consuming milk or meat.

“I can say without reservation that our commercial milk and meat supply is safe,” he said. “Until now, animals infected with H5N1 and other animal diseases have not been allowed into our food supply.”

He added: “The Department of Agriculture has never detected H5N1 in meat sold in retail stores.”

dairy farm milk

The first reports of sick dairy cows were received by the Department of Agriculture in early March, health officials said. (St. Petersburg)

Deeble said tests have shown that heating meat to an internal temperature of 155 degrees or higher is sufficient to remove all traces of the virus.

As for the milk, he said the pasteurization process makes it safe to drink.

“Our milk is purified at high temperatures for a short period of time to inactivate not only H5N1 but also other bacteria and viruses that can cause disease,” he said.

Risk of human infection

The risk to the general public from bird flu is low, according to Dr. Nirav D. Shah, principal deputy director of the CDC in Atlanta.

“That’s partly because people rarely get infected.” avian influenza virus — but it happened,” he said during the briefing.

“When transmission does occur, it most often occurs through unprotected direct contact with an infected animal without wearing gloves, a face mask, or safety glasses.”

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In April, the CDC reported one human case of avian influenza in a Texas dairy worker, Shah said.

“This person’s only symptom was red eyes or conjunctivitis,” he says. “After testing positive, this person [with] of antiviral drugs And thankfully, I made a full recovery. There have been no new or additional cases in Texas since this individual. ”

Other symptoms to watch for include cough, fever, muscle aches and fatigue, Shah said.

Cow and milk

Experts said there are no risks associated with drinking commercial milk. (St. Petersburg)

Although the overall risk to humans is low, the CDC is taking “aggressive steps” to ensure Americans stay healthy and informed, Shah said.

“One of our biggest areas of focus right now is the safety and protection of farmworkers, specifically ensuring that workers have access to personal protective equipment such as gloves, goggles and face masks. These will help reduce the risk of infection in the event you end up working around affected cattle. ”

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The CDC is also working with local health departments to ensure sick farmers are tested for avian influenza and monitor their conditions.

“In addition, scientists in our lab here at the CDC are looking closely at avian influenza viruses to see if there are any changes in the DNA of avian influenza viruses. “We’ll see if they can be more easily transmitted to and between people. And importantly, are they likely to be causing more severe disease?” added.

avian influenza vaccine

Although the overall risk to humans is low, the CDC is taking “aggressive steps” to ensure Americans stay healthy and informed, the doctor said. (Reuters/Dado Ruvik/Illustration/File photo)

The risk to the general public “remains low” at this time, but doctors provided guidance for specific groups who may be at higher risk.

“If you happen to work with animals, whether it’s chickens, cows, or pigs, it’s always important to call your doctor if you develop any signs or symptoms that may indicate influenza. medical worker; medical institution And talk to them. ”

Not another coronavirus, experts say

The current avian influenza situation is different than in the past. Early stages of the new coronavirus infection (COVID-19)Shah said during the press conference.

“We’re in a very different situation now because we’ve invested over 20 years in planning and preparing for things like influenza,” he said.

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“After careful planning and preparation, the medicines are ready.”

If these drugs are given early, as was the case with the Texas farmer, they can reduce the severity and duration of the disease, Shah said.

“This is just one of the many ways that influenza and bird flu are different from what many of us remember from four years ago,” he added.

vaccines and prevention

Experts have pointed out that conventional influenza vaccines are not very effective against bird flu.

“They’re… basically the same virus, but they’re different enough that the flu shot (which I hope everyone gets) isn’t effective enough to protect you,” Shah said. said.

“It might help a little bit, but it’s not enough to go to the bank.”

child receives vaccine

“At this point, vaccination is not recommended for anyone,” the doctor said at a press conference on Thursday. (Julian Stratenschulte/DPA)

Dr. David Boucher, director of infectious disease preparedness and response at ASPR in Washington, D.C., spoke at a Thursday briefing about the potential need for infectious disease control. avian influenza vaccine.

“At this point, vaccination is not recommended for anyone,” he said.

Through the National Influenza Vaccine Program, ASPR health partner Boucher said the aim is to identify influenza viruses that are “a little bit different than anything we’ve seen before.”

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In the case of the new virus, the team is developing “building blocks” for a vaccine, he noted.

“The good news here is that this system is working as well as we expected, and we now have an initial supply of the necessary components should a vaccine be needed. [H5N1] It’s a virus,” he said.

test tube with label

To monitor possible spread, the CDC is looking at increases in emergency room visits and lab tests that could be signs of an “outbreak,” one doctor said. (Reuters/Dado Ruvik/Illustration)

Boucher said that in that scenario, ASPR could partner with manufacturers of seasonal influenza vaccines for “large-scale” production.

Boucher also emphasized the importance of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, goggles, face shields, and N95 masks. infected animal.

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To monitor possible spread, Shah said the CDC is looking at increases in emergency department visits and lab tests that could be signs of an “outbreak.”

“We have been looking to see if there have been any changes in the wastewater recently,” he said.

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People can get the latest information on avian influenza from the CDC, USDA, FDA and other reliable sources, Shah added.

“We should not be alarmed, we should be alarmed.”

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