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Tuesday, May 21st, 2024

Avian flu outbreak prompts Congressional request for interagency coordination

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Fearing the potential behind a recent outbreak of avian flu (H5N1), 17 U.S. senators wrote to Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack this week urging a more coordinated approach between federal, public and state agencies.

Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared that current public health risk posed by Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) remains low, its most recent reporting revealed that more than 90.8 million poultry are affected by it at this point, along with more than 9,200 wild birds, and it has successfully infected dairy cattle as well. Outbreaks have impacted 48 states’ poultry supplies, and nine states’ cattle herds. Sporadic outbreaks remain for poultry flocks, according to the CDC, while wild bird cases are widespread, and dairy cattle are undergoing an ongoing multi-state outbreak.

“The spread of the strain to livestock, including goats and cattle, and a farmworker in Texas, underscores the urgency required to confront this outbreak through a collaborative federal response, heightened surveillance, and additional resources to support vaccine research,” the senators wrote.

Currently, the disease has infected two people throughout the whole of the United States. This was caused by exposure to infected animals.

In their letter, the senators pressed the USDA, Food and Drug Administration, CDC and other federal agencies to work with public and state agencies on the issue, and provide them with current, accurate information on any spread of H5N1.

The CDC has called for ongoing surveillance of the disease, and stressed use of personal protective equipment by anyone in close contact to sick or dead animals. Eating unprepared, uncooked or undercooked food should also be avoided. Surfaces and water surrounding these animals could also be contaminated through animal excretions.

No human vaccines for the pathogen exist, but traditionally, human infection is rare.

“As the wild bird migration continues this spring, we stand ready to work with you and department staff to contain and stop this outbreak and minimize harm to rural America,” the senators said.