What the CDC is doing to watch and shield in opposition to hen flu : NPR

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What the CDC is doing to watch and shield in opposition to hen flu : NPR



The U.S. Department of Agriculture says cows in a number of states have examined optimistic for hen flu.

Charlie Litchfield/AP


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Charlie Litchfield/AP


The U.S. Department of Agriculture says cows in a number of states have examined optimistic for hen flu.

Charlie Litchfield/AP

On Monday, an individual in Texas examined optimistic for hen flu — often known as the extremely pathogenic avian influenza — after coming in touch with dairy cattle presumed to be contaminated.

The virus, which is very contagious amongst wild birds and poultry, has now unfold to dairy farms, in response to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Not solely is that this the primary time that hen flu has been present in dairy cattle, in response to the American Veterinary Medical Association, however that is additionally solely the second time a human has contracted the virus within the U.S.

Government and well being officers say that the chance to the general public stays low, since there have been no recorded situations within the U.S. of human-to-human transmission of avian flu.

All Things Considered host Ari Shapiro spoke to Dr. Mandy Cohen, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, concerning the potential dangers and the federal government’s response.

This interview has been flippantly edited for size and readability.

Interview highlights

Ari Shapiro: The CDC says the chance to people from the H5N1 flu that’s driving this outbreak is low. Right now, it seems that the 2 instances in people have been from contact with sick animals. Do you’ve any purpose to consider that people might cross this on to one another?

Mandy Cohen: So we’ve by no means seen a case of human-to-human unfold of avian flu right here within the United States. And the model of avian flu that we’re seeing in cattle, and on this one human case, is similar pressure [H5N1] that we’ve seen beforehand in birds. We’ve by no means seen that unfold human to human. That all being mentioned, [what] we have discovered via COVID in our expertise is: viruses change, and we have to keep forward of it. That’s why we at CDC and the entire of U.S. authorities is taking this very severely and monitoring the scenario very intently.


CDC director Mandy Cohen in 2023.

Win McNamee/Getty Images


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Win McNamee/Getty Images


CDC director Mandy Cohen in 2023.

Win McNamee/Getty Images

Shapiro: You say we have to keep forward of it. Tell us what that includes, what are the steps you are taking?

Cohen: One is clearly working very intently to ensure we’re understanding the extent of the unfold, what number of cattle and farm[s] are concerned, after which clearly on the lookout for any people which can be in touch with cattle or sick birds, and testing of us which have signs, and ensuring that we’re understanding if it has unfold to folks. So far, there’s solely been one case in Texas. The particular person had very delicate signs. They’re recovering properly. But we wish to ensure, once more, that we’re testing of us who might have been in touch.

Shapiro: You mentioned widespread testing is essential – is there a threat that instances are going to go underneath the radar as a result of individuals are afraid to report? Whether it is farm homeowners who don’t desire their operation to be shut down or farm staff who may not have well being protection.

Cohen: We’re working intently with our state and native companions, our companions via agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture and farm staff. Again, we wish to get forward of this. So we’re making an attempt to speak of us via it and construct belief, and people have actually been receptive. We’ve been notably working with lots of the veterinarians which can be a part of the farms which were impacted. So far, all working properly collectively.

Shapiro: Cows weren’t regarded as a species at excessive threat, and so if the virus is now spreading in cows, what are the possibilities that it might mutate to develop into a threat to people?

Cohen: Well, it’s true – that is the primary time we have seen avian flu, or “hen flu,” in cattle. And, as you recognize, cows are mammals, so it is a new reservoir or a bunch of animals that we’re seeing this virus in. And that simply means extra alternative for this virus to mutate and alter. And that is what we wish to ensure we’re persevering with to remain forward of.

Shapiro: Monitoring whether or not it continues to unfold and evolve is one factor – getting ready for the chance that it would is one other. In a New York Times opinion piece, columnist Zeynep Tufekci mentioned the federal government must gear as much as probably mass produce vaccines shortly. Do you agree with that?

Cohen: Well, the excellent news is the United States has been getting ready for avian flu outbreaks for greater than 20 years. We’ve invested in our potential to check for this, to forestall it and to deal with it. And we all know that the pressure we’re seeing proper now is similar pressure we’ve seen earlier than. And we consider from all of our laboratory testing that our take a look at will decide this up. Our therapy, which is Tamiflu, which we’ve each doses in stockpile and across the nation, works. And we even have vaccine candidates which can be able to go. So it is very totally different than what we skilled, for instance, initially of COVID, after we’re seeing a model new novel virus the place we did not have exams, we did not have therapy and we did not have vaccine.

Shapiro: But simply particularly, if it does take time to mass produce vaccines, is that one thing the U.S. needs to be doing in earnest proper now on the prospect that the virus evolves?

Cohen: We have by no means seen a transmission from a human-to-human. That is one thing we’re waiting for very intently. And so there could also be set off factors the place we might transfer to desirous about scaling up vaccine. But bear in mind, there’s all the time a tradeoff there – if we transfer to manufacturing one kind of vaccine, it could be on the expense of having the ability to manufacture that vaccine for the seasonal flu. Again, one thing that additionally impacts us. So, we’ve the flexibility to scale up if we have to. And once more, we have already began down that course of and we’ll maintain monitoring to see if we have to set off and do this.

Shapiro: The instances to this point have all been in dairy cows. Should folks be involved about consuming milk and different dairy merchandise?

Cohen: [The] FDA has indicated that our milk provide is protected due to the pasteurization course of. Unpasteurized and uncooked milk stays a threat, however the overwhelming majority of our milk provide is protected due to pasteurization.

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