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What to find out about hen flu in dairy cows and the chance to people


Hen flu has been present in dairy cattle in 9 states


calendar icon 3 June 2024

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3 minute learn

A third US dairy employee examined optimistic for hen flu after publicity to contaminated cows, and was the primary to undergo respiratory signs, Reuters reported, citing US officers on Thursday within the newest enlargement of the outbreak.

Hen flu has been present in dairy cattle in 9 states. This second case in a Michigan dairy employee was discovered via elevated testing of individuals and cows within the state following the April 1 identification of a case in a Texas farm employee. This is what it’s worthwhile to know concerning the outbreak.

Why is H5N1 or hen flu a priority?

Well being officers say the chance to public well being stays low.

However the unfold of avian flu amongst dairy cattle displays an enlargement of the vary of mammals that may be sickened by the virus that sometimes infects birds, and influenza consultants mentioned discovering hen flu in people was worrisome.

Scientists are on alert for adjustments in H5N1 that would sign the virus is adapting to unfold simply amongst people. The virus has triggered severe or deadly infections amongst folks in shut contact with wild birds or poultry and has lengthy been on the record of viruses with pandemic potential. Any enlargement to a brand new mammal species is regarding.

The infections in cattle are from the identical subtype of hen flu that has been infecting wild birds and poultry flocks globally for greater than two years, additionally killing a number of mammal species that possible contracted the virus from consuming sick or lifeless birds.

How widespread is the hen flu outbreak in cattle? 

The total extent stays unknown, however it might be in additional herds than documented.

The US Meals and Drug Administration has mentioned it detected fragments of the H5N1 virus in about 1 in 5 samples throughout a nationwide survey of retail milk. It mentioned exams of 297 samples discovered the remnants of virus have been inactivated by the pasteurisation course of, and that the milk provide is secure. US well being officers imagine folks can not get sick from consuming pasteurised milk however warn to not drink uncooked unpasteurised milk.

Officers have discovered the virus may be current in cows that present no indicators of an infection.

When did this hen flu outbreak begin?

US officers had thought the outbreak was current, however it might have began late final 12 months.

A research funded by the US Division of Agriculture and the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention revealed in Might discovered hen flu was possible circulating on a restricted foundation way back to late 2023. The research mentioned it believed a wild hen transmitted the virus to cattle, which then expanded when the cows have been shipped to different states.

How is H5N1 spreading?

It stays unclear how the virus is spreading, however there’s proof of untamed bird-to-cow, cow-to-cow, cow-to-poultry, and three instances of cow-to-human transmission. There isn’t any proof of human-to-human transmission, officers reiterated.

Due to the heavy viral load in milk and mammary glands, scientists suspect the virus is being unfold to animals throughout the milking course of, both via contact with contaminated tools or with virus that turns into aerosolized throughout cleansing procedures.

It’s not identified if the virus can unfold via respiratory droplets that infect the airway, as flu viruses sometimes unfold in people. Human signs have included conjunctivitis, or pink eye, and gentle respiratory signs.

Is there a hen flu vaccine for people?

The US has a stockpile of hen flu vaccines matched with the pressure at the moment circulating, in addition to antiviral medicine that might be used to deal with human infections. For a serious epidemic or a pandemic, the US must scale up manufacturing significantly.



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