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FDA Prepares for Possible Human Spread of Bird Flu: Commissioner's Update

FDA Prepares for Possible Human Spread of Bird Flu: Commissioner's Update

FDA Readies for Possible Human Spread of Bird Flu: Commissioner

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is gearing up for a potential situation where the highly pathogenic avian influenza, or bird flu, starts to spread among humans, according to the agency's commissioner.

Preparing for the Possibility of Human Infection

Dr. Robert Califf, the FDA commissioner, informed senators during a Washington hearing on May 8, that they are preparing for the possibility of the virus jumping to humans. He noted that the virus, like all viruses, is mutating. The bird flu, also known as H5N1, has recently been detected in cattle and other species, and a confirmed case has been reported in Texas this year.

Current Risk to Humans

Presently, genetic sequencing and other data suggest that the influenza poses little risk to humans, and there are no indications of person-to-person transmission, as per U.S. officials. However, they are making preparations for treatments, tests, and vaccines in case the situation changes.

Preparation for Larger Human Infection

Dr. Califf informed the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee that they have been actively preparing in case the virus mutates in a way that causes it to spread among humans on a larger scale.

Concerns about Virus Mutation

The primary symptom experienced by the patient in Texas was inflamed eyes. Neither the patient nor many of the infected cows have shown respiratory symptoms, which are common in birds infected with H5N1. The concern is that the virus could jump to human lungs, where previous brief outbreaks have resulted in mortality rates of 25%. This concern is based on how viruses typically mutate, as seen in the case of COVID-19.

Global Cases of H5N1

From 2003 to April 1, 2024, 889 cases of H5N1 have been confirmed worldwide, with a fatality rate of 52%, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO chief scientist Jeremy Farrar recently stated that H5N1 has evolved into a “global zoonotic animal pandemic”, and scientists are worried that the virus could mutate to spread among humans.

Need for More Surveillance

Tedros Ghebreyesus, the director-general of WHO, stated that while the virus does not currently show signs of adapting to spread among humans, more surveillance is necessary.

Concerns about Influenza Jumping to Other Species

Many experts consulted by the U.S. government are worried about the influenza jumping to cattle and other species and the interaction of cattle with pigs, chickens, and humans on farms. A recent study suggests that cattle could serve as a “mixing vessel” for avian influenza.

Preventive Measures

Dr. Califf stressed the importance of instituting countermeasures now to reduce the spread of the virus and lessen the likelihood of a mutation that could jump to humans.

Safety of Milk and Beef Supply

The FDA is partly focusing on ensuring the country’s milk supply is safe to drink. Although some samples tested positive, no live virus has been detected, indicating the milk supply is safe. Similarly, test results from beef have confirmed that beef is safe.

H5N1 Infections in Cattle

The agency has confirmed H5N1 infections in 36 herds across nine states. Data from affected cows indicate H5N1 began circulating in cattle in late 2023.

Monitoring of Farm Workers

About 70 farm workers are currently being monitored in Colorado, but none have shown symptoms so far. This article raises important questions about the potential spread of bird flu among humans and the preparations being made to combat such a scenario. What are your thoughts on this matter? Feel free to share this article with your friends and engage in a discussion. Also, remember to sign up for the Daily Briefing, which is delivered every day at 6pm.

Some articles will contain credit or partial credit to other authors even if we do not repost the article and are only inspired by the original content.

Some articles will contain credit or partial credit to other authors even if we do not repost the article and are only inspired by the original content.

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