The H5N2 bird flu has reportedly left hundreds of farm workers exposed to a “highly pathogenic strain” of the virus. The agricultural workers have been given an anti-viral medication as a “preventative” measure over the past few days, according to United States public health officials.
The H5N2 strain has swept through the Midwest infecting 7.3 million chickens and turkeys on some of the largest poultry farms in the country. Bird flu, like other flu viruses, are “highly mutable” and could caused farm workers in “direct contact” with the avian flu infected birds to also become ill.
Exactly how severe an H5N2 infection could be in a human being remains unknown. Both public health officials and federal government researchers have stated that it is “unlikely” that the bird flu strain could be passed from animals to people because of the “genetic make-up” of this particular avian flu strain.
Health officials remain “cautiously optimistic” that people will not be affected by the latest H5N2 bird flu strain, Dr. Alicia Fry, a medical officer in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s influenza division said. The CDC has reportedly isolated a “pure strain” of the H5N2 virus for possible use in a human vaccine for the avian flu, should such a step ever need to be taken.
Biosecurity safety measures have reportedly been enhanced on American farms with H5N2 infected poultry. Federal government staffers are now “overseeing” the culling of some of the birds infected with the avian flu strain due to concerns about “human health risk.” The staffers who are tasked with putting the birds down have been ordered to wear ventilators and full-body protective suits.
Approximately 35 USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) workers are now present on American farms where the H5N2 bird flu has been found. The massive and rapid spreading of this bird flu strain has reportedly prompted government concerns that the wild bird population could become “permanently infected” with the H5N2 virus. APHIS reportedly has $84.2 million available to fight the avian flu outbreak. APHIS officials have stated that $60 million in indemnity claims will be coming from poultry farmers seeking compensation for culled flocks.
While the government staffers are geared up to complete the culling on farms impacted by the bird flu, the CDC is “working through legal issues” regarding the release of medications from the federal government’s stockpile of the Roche anti-viral drug, Tamiflu in an effort to have it used during this H5N2 outbreak. Approximately 3oo individuals in South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota have been told they should take Tamiflu “as a precaution,” according to public health officials.
The H5N2 bird flu outbreak could cause both a poultry shortage and an increase in prices at the grocery store.
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