Home Gesundheit Bundesexperten sprechen im WebMD-Live-Event über „Was wäre, wenn“ der Vogelgrippe

Bundesexperten sprechen im WebMD-Live-Event über „Was wäre, wenn“ der Vogelgrippe

von NFI Redaktion

On May 16, 2024, multiple US agencies are working to contain the recent outbreak of avian flu in cattle to prevent further spread to humans (beyond a reported case in early April). They are leveraging the lessons learned before, during, and after the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure the safety of farm workers and the public.

Hopes are high that the avian flu will be contained and cease. Otherwise, the outbreak could further spread to dairy cows and other animals, endangering the health and livelihood of farmers and others working with livestock.

If the virus mutates to become more transmissible to humans and circulate among them, it could potentially lead to a new flu pandemic. This uncertainty prompted WebMD experts from four federal agencies to discuss prevention, surveillance, and the potential scenarios of the avian flu.

„Communication with the public about what we know, what we don’t know, and how you and your family can stay safe is a priority for us at the CDC,“ said Nirav D. Shah, MD, JD, Deputy Director of the CDC. „We are responding at the federal level and we want the public to follow along.“

For the latest information, visit the websites of the CDC, FDA, US Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR).

It’s important to not only stay informed but also seek trustworthy sources of information, Shah emphasized during „Avian Flu 2024 – What You Need to Know,“ an online briefing sponsored jointly by CDC and WebMD.

An „experimental hamburger“

One key message from the event was that the threat to the general public remains low. While the retail milk supply is safe, the consumption of raw or unpasteurized milk is not recommended. „Although the commercial milk supply is safe, we strongly advise against drinking raw milk,“ said Donald A. Prater, DVM, Acting Director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at the FDA.

Regarding other food items, cooked eggs are less risky than raw eggs, and the country’s beef supply remains free of the virus.

„For years, federal inspectors have been buying and testing meat at retail stores,“ said Eric Deeble, DVM, Deputy Secretary for the Office of Congressional Relations at the USDA. So far, H5N1, the virus behind avian flu, has not been detected in beef.

The USDA took it a step further by recently cooking ground beef from dairy cows in its lab. Demonstrating what Deeble referred to as an „experimental hamburger,“ the agency showed that cooking beef at 165 F or higher would kill the virus if necessary.

The federal government now mandates testing all cattle to be free of the avian flu virus before crossing state borders. Additionally, the government reimburses farmers for veterinary costs related to the outbreak and provides workers with personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, masks, and face shields.

Vaccination is not currently recommended

Federal scientists have enough knowledge about the H5N1 virus to rapidly develop vaccines if needed. At this point, the focus is on pre-planning. „Vaccines are currently not part of our response,“ said David Boucher, PhD, Director for Preparedness and Response to Infectious Diseases at ASPR.

If the virus evolves to pose a greater threat to humans, „we have the building blocks to create a vaccine,“ Boucher added.

„Influenza is not a new virus,“ Boucher stated. „For this influenza strain, we don’t see genetic markers associated with resistance to antivirals. That means the antiviral medications we take for seasonal flu would also be available for treating H5N1 as needed.“

ASPR has Tamiflu and three other antiviral drugs in stock. „We have tens of millions of courses that can be distributed nationwide if needed,“ he added.

„Influenza is a foe we are familiar with,“ Boucher said. „That’s why we have ready-to-use antivirals and various types of PPE.“

Science in Action

Federal agencies are committed to the case. They will continue monitoring emergency room visits, lab test orders, and wastewater samples for changes indicating an increased risk of a human pandemic.

„While we have learned a lot, there are still many things we don’t know,“ Deeble said.

„Like with any outbreak, this is an evolving situation and things can change,“ Shah added. „What you’re seeing now is science in action.“

For the latest information on avian flu in the United States, visit the CDC’s H5N1 Avian Flu: Summary of Current Situation webpage.

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