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, several US agencies are working to contain the recent outbreak of avian flu in cattle to prevent further spread to humans (beyond a case reported in early April) and utilizing the insights gained before, during, and after the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure the safety of farm workers and the public.

Stay tuned as efforts are being made to contain and stop the avian flu outbreak. Otherwise, it could spread further to dairy cows and other animals, jeopardizing the health and livelihood of farmers and those working with livestock.

Alternatively, if the virus mutates to become more easily transmissible among humans, it could potentially lead to a new flu pandemic.

Given the many unknowns, WebMD brought together experts from four federal agencies to discuss prevention, monitoring, and the potential scenarios of the avian flu outbreak.

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 encourage public participation.“

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

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

An „Experimental Hamburger“

A key takeaway from the event was that the threat to the general public remains low. While the retail milk supply is safe, consuming 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 FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

As for other food items, thoroughly 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 purchasing and testing meat from retail stores,“ said Eric Deeble, DVM, Deputy Secretary for the Office of Congressional Relations at the USDA. Thus far, H5N1, the virus behind avian flu, has not been detected in beef.

The USDA took its testing a step further and recently cooked ground beef from dairy cows in its laboratory. 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 requires testing all cattle to be free of the avian flu virus before crossing state borders. Additionally, the government reimburses farmers for veterinary expenses related to the outbreak and provides workers with personal protective equipment (PPE) like gloves, masks, and face shields.

Vaccination is not currently recommended

Federal scientists have enough knowledge about the H5N1 virus to develop vaccines quickly if needed. At this point, it’s about planning ahead. „Vaccines are not currently part of our response,“ said David Boucher, PhD, Director for Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response at ASPR.

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

A participant in the event asked if the seasonal flu vaccine provided any protection. „Unfortunately, the flu shot you received last year doesn’t offer good protection against avian flu,“ responded Shah. „It might help a little… but that’s the vaccine for seasonal flu. This is something new.“

Treatments on hand and ready

Antiviral medications, when administered early in the course of an avian flu infection, could potentially reduce the severity or duration of the illness, are now available, said Shah. The dairy farmer infected with avian flu earlier this year responded to treatment with Oseltamivir (Tamiflu), for example.

Regarding avian flu symptoms, Shah noted that the only reported individual infected with avian flu so far this year developed conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, which was an unexpected symptom compared to typical seasonal flu symptoms.

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

ASPR has stockpiled Tamiflu and three other antiviral medications. „We have tens of millions of courses that can be distributed nationwide as needed,“ he added.

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

Science in Action

Federal agencies are committed to the case, continuing to monitor emergency room visits, lab test orders, and wastewater samples for changes that indicate an increasing risk of a human pandemic.

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

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

Find the latest information on avian flu in the United States on the CDC’s H5N1 Avian Flu: Current Situation webpage.

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