US taking bird flu 'very seriously,' CDC says: 5 notes

While health officials say the threat avian flu poses to humans remains low, the situation is being closely monitored and taken "very seriously," the CDC director told ABC News in an April 3 report — days after a person in Texas tested positive for bird flu.

State and federal health officials on April 1 confirmed an individual in Texas who worked on a dairy farm had tested positive for H5N1. The case is believed to be tied to recent detections of bird flu among dairy cows in the U.S. The Department of Agriculture has confirmed cows on dairy farms in Texas, Kansas, New Mexico and Michigan had been sickened by the virus, marking the first time the disease has been found in dairy cattle. 

"These are the things that reassure me: 20 years of preparation, no genetic changes to this virus, no human-to-human spread and nothing in the virus in terms of adaptations that would make us think it is more adaptive to human spread," Mandy Cohen, MD, CDC director, told ABC, adding the person in Texas had mild symptoms and is doing well. 

While emphasizing there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission and that current tests and treatments work, the U.S. is "taking this situation very seriously and closely monitoring it," Dr. Cohen said. 

Four more updates on bird flu in the U.S.: 

  • The CDC published a technical update April 3 regarding findings from flu samples taken from the patient in Texas. The individual reported conjunctivitis as their only symptom, which is "suggestive of a lack of respiratory infection," the update said. Full findings from the analysis, which also indicated a gene from the human specimen closely aligns with two candidate vaccine virus strains, can be found here
  • Millions of Tamiflu doses, an antiviral drug for the treatment of flu, are in the national stockpile and manufacturing can be increased if needed, Dr. Cohen told ABC. Vaccines could also be developed in an accelerated timeline, she said. 
  • Infectious disease experts have said ramping up surveillance efforts are critical to spot any potential worrisome changes in the virus as early as possible. 

"We don't want to give H5N1 the opportunity to adapt to efficient growth in humans," Angela Rasmussen, PhD, virologist with the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, wrote in a post on X. "It can be deadly. To prevent the public health crisis of tomorrow, solve the problem of today." 

  • As far as the nation's milk supply, the USDA has said there are currently no concerns, noting that dairies are required to divert or destroy any milk from affected animals and that the pasteurization process "has continually proven to inactivate bacteria and viruses."

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