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Experten beobachten die Vogelgrippe sorgfältig für den Fall, dass sie ausbricht

von NFI Redaktion

As of May 14, 2024 – So far, the unexpected spread of bird flu to cattle has not developed into a new human influenza pandemic. Yes, this year a dairy worker developed conjunctivitis after an infection, but a greater threat to all of us has not materialized yet.

However, this does not mean that experts are not closely monitoring the situation.

„The current risk of this infection to the public is very low,“ said Maximo Brito, MD, MPH, Professor of Medicine at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago. „The CDC is monitoring doctor’s offices and emergency rooms for unusual flu activity. So far, no significant problems have been detected.“

„Just don’t kiss or hug the animals,“ advised Dr. Tina Tan, acknowledging that the risk of bird flu to the US population remains low. Tan is a Pediatrics Professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, also in Chicago. Both infectious disease experts spoke at a press conference sponsored by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA).

Infected cows have been reported on 36 farms in nine US states. The federal government requires cows to be tested negative for bird flu, also known as avian flu, before crossing state borders. However, federal authorities do not have jurisdiction within states. Instead, they provide recommendations to state leaders, agriculture officials, and others to help contain the outbreak and aid affected farmers who have suffered losses in recent months.

The H5N1 virus behind bird flu has been circulating in cows since December 2023. The transmission of the virus from wild birds to cattle was a surprise, according to Brito, who is also an IDSA fellow.

How Safe Are Milk, Eggs, and Beef?

The FDA tested retail milk and found traces of the virus in some samples. Further tests confirmed that pasteurization, the heating process most milk undergoes before being sold to the public, deactivates the virus.

„Therefore, the FDA believes that the US milk supply is currently safe,“ Brito said at the press conference on May 9.

Officials warn not to touch surfaces that may be contaminated with raw milk or with saliva, mucus, or feces of potentially infected animals.

In areas with bird flu or sick birds, cook poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165°F. Do not consume raw eggs. Also, proper cooking of beef at the right temperature prevents infection transmission.

„So far, the virus has not been found in beef,“ said Brito.

Are We Okay for Now?

The H5N1 virus could develop the ability to more easily jump to humans, „but that is all speculative at the moment,“ Brito said. The circulating virus variant among cattle is not an effective human pathogen. However, genetic changes can occur with these viruses, as has happened before. There may be additional concerns if H5N1 transmits to pigs, as their virus receptors are closer to humans, he said.

If the virus does indeed jump to humans, children may be at higher risk. „As you know, children are very different from adults, as they are much more likely to hug and kiss an animal,“ said Tan, who is also President-elect of IDSA.

There are elementary schools that have chickens and ducks as school pets. Some families have chickens as pets. „Children also drink a lot of milk, including some children who drink unpasteurized raw milk,“ she said.

The Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, where Tan works, is prepared if H5N1 leads to significant infections in children. „We will treat it very similarly to a pandemic flu. We have protocols for pandemic influenza and for COVID that can be adapted to H5N1 if it becomes a real issue,“ she said.

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