Join Fox News for access to this content

Plus special access to select articles and other premium content with your account – free of charge.

Please enter a valid email address.

By entering your email and pushing continue, you are agreeing to Fox News’ Terms of Use and Privacy Policy, which includes our Notice of Financial Incentive. To access the content, check your email and follow the instructions provided.

Having trouble? Click here.

As bird flu continues to spread among cattle in the U.S., WebMD and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) joined forces on Thursday to present a live-streamed briefing on the status of the outbreak.

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

The first reports of sick dairy cows came to the USDA in early March, according to Eric Deeble, deputy assistant secretary for the Office of Congressional Relations at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Washington, D.C.

AMID BIRD FLU SPREAD, EXPERTS REVEAL IF IT’S SAFE TO DRINK MILK

Testing revealed that the cows had contracted H5N1, more commonly known as avian influenza, or bird flu.

“Any new disease of cattle is a great concern to us,” Deeble said during the briefing. 

“The H5N1 in cattle is a relatively mild disease. They generally recover after supportive care” within two to three weeks, he said.

“Their milk volume returns to normal, and they appear healthy and continue to feed as they did before they became sick.” 

“Any new disease of cattle is a great concern to us.”

So far, the USDA has detected H5N1 in 49 dairy herds in nine states, Deeble stated. 

“To put that into perspective, that’s around 1% of dairy farms in the affected states and about 1/10th of 1% nationally,” he said. 

On April 29, a federal order from the USDA took effect, limiting the movement of lactating dairy cattle in an effort to monitor and compile H5N1 test results.

TEXAS CATS DIE ON DAIRY FARM AFTER DRINKING RAW MILK CONTAMINATED WITH BIRD FLU, CDC WARNS

“Under this order, dairy farmers are required to test their cows before moving them across state lines so that we know those cows are H5N1-free and don’t pose a risk to any new herd,” Deeble said.

The order also requires that any test results that detect the presence of H5N1 are reported to USDA labs.

No current food risk, experts say

Deeble assured those tuning in on Thursday that there is no risk with consuming milk and meat.

“I can say without reservation that our commercial milk and meat supplies are safe,” he said. “At no time were animals that are sick from H5N1 or any other animal disease permitted to enter into our food supply.”

He added, “USDA has never detected H5N1 in meat sold at retail.”

Dairy farm milk

Tests have confirmed that cooking meat to an internal temperature of 155 or above is sufficient to eliminate all traces of the virus, Deeble noted.

For milk, the pasteurization process ensures it is safe to drink, he said.

“Our milk is cleared to a high temperature for a brief period of time, inactivating H5N1, as well as other bacteria and viruses that could make someone sick,” he said.

Risk of transmission to humans

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

“That is in part because it’s rare for people to get infected with bird flu viruses — but it has happened,” he said during the briefing.

“If and when it does happen, it’s most often through direct unprotected contact with infected animals — for example, not wearing gloves, face masks or eye protection.”

COULD A BIRD FLU PANDEMIC SPREAD TO HUMANS? HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

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

“This person’s only symptom was eye redness, or conjunctivitis,” he said. “After testing positive, this person was provided [with] an antiviral medicine and thankfully made a full recovery. There have been no new or additional human cases since this individual in Texas.”

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

Cows and milk

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

“Right now, one of our top areas of focus is around farm worker safety and protection — specifically making sure that workers have access to personal protective equipment … like gloves, goggles or face masks, which can help reduce their risk of exposure if they happen to be working around affected cows.”

MAINE WILDLIFE AUTHORITIES FIND 6 DEAD WILD DUCKS THAT TESTED POSITIVE FOR BIRD FLU

The CDC is also working with local health departments to ensure that sick farmers are tested for bird flu and to monitor their status.

“In addition to that, scientists in our laboratories here at CDC are looking closely at the bird flu viruses to see if there are any changes in their DNA that might tell us if these viruses are able to spread more easily to people, between people, and, importantly, whether they might be causing more serious illness,” Shah added.

Bird flu vaccine

Although the risk to the public “remains low” currently, the doctor offered guidance for certain groups that may be at a higher risk.

“If you happen to work around animals, whether it’s chickens, whether it’s cattle, or whether it’s pigs, and you develop signs and symptoms that might otherwise be the flu, it’s important to make sure you call a health care provider and have a conversation with them.”

Not another COVID, experts say

The current situation with bird flu is different from the early days of COVID-19, Shah said during the briefing.

“We are in a much different place because of over two decades of investment in planning and preparing for things like influenza,” he said.

CDC WARNS OF INVASIVE BACTERIAL OUTBREAK AMID SPIKE IN CASES AND FATALITY RATES: ‘RARE BUT SEVERE’

“As a result of that extensive planning and preparedness, there are medicines in place.”

If those medications are given early, they can reduce the severity and duration of illness, as was the case with the farmer in Texas, Shah noted.

“This is just one of many ways in which … influenza and bird flu differs from what many of us remember from four years ago,” he added.

Vaccines and prevention

The traditional influenza vaccine doesn’t provide much protection against avian flu, the experts noted.

“Even though they are … basically the same virus, they differ just enough to where the flu shot — which we hope everyone gets — doesn’t do a great job at protecting you,” said Shah.

“It might do a little bit of work, but it’s not enough to take you to the bank.” 

Child receives vaccines

David Boucher, PhD, director of Infectious Diseases Preparedness and Response at ASPR in Washington, D.C., spoke during the Thursday briefing about the potential need for a bird flu vaccine.

“We’re not at a spot where vaccination is recommended for anyone,” he said. 

Through the National Influenza Vaccine Program, the ASPR works with health partners to identify influenza viruses that are “just a little bit different from the things that we’ve seen in the past,” Boucher said. 

WITH WHOOPING COUGH CASES ON THE RISE, DO YOU NEED A BOOSTER VACCINE?

For a novel virus, the team develops “building blocks” of a vaccine, he noted.

“The good news here is that this system has worked the way we hoped it would, and we have an initial supply of the building blocks we would need if we needed vaccines for the [H5N1] virus,” he said.

Test tube labelled "Bird Flu"

In that scenario, Boucher said, the 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 — for agricultural workers who may be close to infected animals.

CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP FOR OUR HEALTH NEWSLETTER

To monitor potential spread, the CDC is on the lookout for an increase in emergency department visits or laboratory tests that might signal a “cluster of cases,” Shah said. 

“We’re also more recently looking at wastewater to see if there are changes there,” he said.

People can stay up to date on the latest bird flu developments from the CDC, the USDA, the FDA and other trusted sources of information, Shah added.

“We should be alert, not alarmed.”

For more Health articles, visit www.foxnews.com/health.

Read the full article here

Share.
Leave A Reply