H5N1 Bird Flu Updates

Beebo Brink

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I've been following the news of the spreading avian influenza for awhile now, and the prickling of my thumbs says it's time to start a thread. (Not quite time for a forum on Pandemics.)

Currently, bird flu is not a danger to humans. Virus mutate, however, so there's always the potential for that landscape to change fast. Meanwhile, this is a growing problem for the agricultural industry.

Bird flu spreads to dairy cows in Idaho, Michigan and New Mexico - The Washington Post
A highly virulent bird flu first detected in dairy cows in Texas and Kansas this week has spread to additional herds, bringing the number of affected states to five and adding evidence the virus may be spreading cow-to-cow. The strain has been confirmed in Michigan, and presumptive positive tests have been reported from Idaho and New Mexico, federal officials said Friday.
Bird flu detected in person who had contact with infected dairy cattle in Texas - The Washington Post
A person in Texas is being treated for bird flu, the second human case of an illness caused by a highly virulent virus that has rampaged through sickened dairy cows in five states in recent weeks, federal and state officials said Monday.

The patient, who experienced eye inflammation as their only symptom, was tested for flu late last week with confirmatory testing performed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over the weekend. The patient is being treated with the antiviral drug oseltamivir. The case does not change the risk for the general public, which remains low. The person had direct exposure to dairy cattle presumed to be infected with avian influenza, Texas officials said Monday.
 

Beebo Brink

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Largest fresh egg producer in the US has found bird flu at Texas, Michigan plants | AP News
The largest producer of fresh eggs in the U.S. said Tuesday it had temporarily halted production at a Texas plant after bird flu was found in chickens, and officials said the virus had also been detected at a poultry facility in Michigan.

Ridgeland, Mississippi-based Cal-Maine Foods, Inc. said in a statement that approximately 1.6 million laying hens and 337,000 pullets, about 3.6% of its total flock, were destroyed after the infection, avian influenza, was found at a facility in Parmer County, Texas.
 

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In other words, industry vets are trying to rebrand bird flu so that we keep calm and keep buying cheeseburgers. “They’re worried about selling products,” bovine veterinarian James Reynolds, a professor at Western University’s vet school, told me, calling the group’s statement “disease-washing.”

Covering bird flu over the last two years, I’ve seen a lot of wild stuff, but this may be one of the weirdest. And it’s more than just a terminological or political spat: It reflects an inescapable paradox about how we produce food.
 

Beebo Brink

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Risk of bird flu spreading to humans is ‘enormous concern’, says WHO | Bird flu | The Guardian
So far, there is no evidence that H5N1 is spreading between humans. But in the hundreds of cases where humans have been infected through contact with animals over the past 20 years, “the mortality rate is extraordinarily high”, Farrar said, because humans have no natural immunity to the virus.

From 2003 to 2024, 889 cases and 463 deaths caused by H5N1 have been reported worldwide from 23 countries, according to the WHO, putting the case fatality rate at 52%.
 

Beebo Brink

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'We should be worried, but not panicked,' says Iowa dairy specialist on bird flu in cows (ktvo.com)
IOWA — Dairy herds infected with the highly pathogenic bird flu (H5N1) have been confirmed in eight states including those close to Iowa and Missouri in South Dakota and Kansas.

Professor Phillip Jardon of Iowa State University’s Veterinary Extension says while the disease is highly pathogenic for poultry, it does not seem to be highly pathogenic in dairy cows, so far.
Although there is evidence of cow-to-cow transmission, it still doesn’t explain all the ways the disease has been spreading.

“We should be worried, but not panicked," said Jardon. "Then I think there's also some evidence that this might be spreading from cows to some of the birds, whether it's because of the mutation or whether it's because of, just proximity. So I think we need to be careful of that, too. And try our best to keep it from coming into Iowa.”
 

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At least there are some vaccines for this one, that may reduce severity if it goes pandemic. Though the best vaccines would be made from the pandemic strain, which would take some time.

Though really, the PRC needs to step up it's environmental and meat production oversight to reduce the incidence of all these strains of naughty viruses from rising up in wet-markets and then spreading everywhere.
 
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Beebo Brink

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As bird flu outbreaks worsen, experts say the situation threatens to spiral out of control | Salon.com

For weeks, the dairy industry has been gripped by a highly contagious virus that is threatening to only get worse. Federal regulators announced this week that samples of pasteurized milk tested positive for H5N1, the strain of bird flu that has jumped from poultry to cows with one recent infection in an American.

At the moment, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that the country’s milk supply is safe thanks to the pasteurization process, which works by heating milk to kill bacteria and viruses, and “the diversion or destruction of milk from sick cows.”

However, infectious disease experts warn this these positive tests are a sign that the outbreak is much bigger than previously thought, and indicate that the government doesn’t have a good grasp on the situation. And the problem only seems to be worsening. According to the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), H5N1 has been identified in 33 herds in eight states. On Thursday, a senior FDA official said 1 in 5 milk samples have tested positive for H5N1.
 

Beebo Brink

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The plot gets more convoluted.

H5N1 flu virus outbreak in cows likely started earlier than thought - STAT (statnews.com)

The H5N1 bird flu outbreak in dairy cows in the United States has likely been going on for months longer than was previously realized, and has probably spread more widely across the country than the confirmed outbreaks would imply, according to an analysis of genetic sequences that were released Sunday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The genetic data point to a single spillover event that probably occurred in late 2023, Michael Worobey, an evolutionary virologist at the University of Arizona, told STAT on Tuesday.
Asked whether the analysis of the genetic data increases his sense of the risk H5N1 poses to humans, Worobey suggested he was uncomfortable with the knowledge that H5N1 seems to be spreading in mammals, calling that unprecedented.

Having the virus in a mammalian species with which people have frequent contact gives H5N1 more opportunities to acquire the mutations needed to be able to evolve to be able to infect people, or “more shots on goal,” Worobey said. “That’s bad.”
 

Beebo Brink

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Bird flu cases are likely being missed in dairy workers, experts say (nbcnews.com)

“Our job right now is to protect farmworkers,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, director of the Pandemic Center at Brown University School of Public Health. “We can’t do that unless we know where the virus is or where it isn’t.”

It’s still unclear how the bird flu virus spreads from cows to people, though some experts said it could be through multiple paths, such as contact with milk, contaminated milking equipment, or even respiratory droplets.

“I think everything’s on the table at this point,” said Dr. Andrew Bowman, a veterinary epidemiologist at the Ohio State University.
 

Beebo Brink

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Scientists worry the U.S. may be missing bird flu cases in farm workers : Shots - Health News : NPR
Officially, there is only one documented case of bird flu spilling over from cows into humans during the current U.S. outbreak.

But epidemiologist Gregory Gray suspects the true number is higher, based on what he heard from veterinarians, farm owners and the workers themselves as the virus hit their herds in his state.

"We know that some of the workers sought medical care for influenza-like illness and conjunctivitis at the same time the H5N1 was ravaging the dairy farms," says Gray, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.

"I don't have a way to measure that, but it seems biologically quite plausible that they too, are suffering from the virus," he says.
 

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The US Department of Agriculture this week posted an unpublished version of its genetic analysis into the spillover and spread of bird flu into US dairy cattle, offering the most complete look yet at the data state and federal investigators have amassed in the unexpected and worrisome outbreak—and what it might mean.

The preprint analysis provides several significant insights into the outbreak—from when it may have actually started, just how much transmission we're missing, stunning unknowns about the only human infection linked to the outbreak, and how much the virus continues to evolve in cows. The information is critical as flu experts fear the outbreak is heightening the ever-present risk that this wily flu virus will evolve to spread among humans and spark a pandemic.
But, the information hasn't been easy to come by. Since March 25—when the USDA confirmed for the first time that a herd of US dairy cows had contracted the highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 virus—the agency has garnered international criticism for not sharing data quickly or completely.