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Colorado monitors dairy farm workers for bird flu symptoms after exposure: USA: Business Times

About 70 workers at Colorado dairy farms are being monitored for possible symptoms of bird flu after being exposed to the virus while working at two dairy farms in the state. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) confirmed Friday that none of its employees are currently reporting symptoms of infection, but the agency will coordinate testing and ensure antiviral flu medications are available for those who develop symptoms.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) first detected bird flu in a Colorado dairy herd on April 25, while a second herd tested positive on Wednesday. This follows the discovery of the virus in a Texas dairy herd in late March, with one person developing mild symptoms, marking the first known case of this particular strain of the virus being transmitted from another mammal to a human.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 is highly contagious and often fatal in birds, and can be easily transmitted between domestic poultry and wild birds. Although the term ‘highly pathogenic’ refers to the serious impact on birds, there is the potential for pandemic levels of bird flu in humans. A 2023 study found that severe infections can cause high rates of death in humans, with four out of six unvaccinated laboratory monkeys dying after inhaling an aerosol dose of the virus.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), human infections with bird flu viruses can occur when the virus enters a person’s eyes, nose, or mouth, or is inhaled through droplets, small aerosol particles, or possibly dust contaminated by the air. virus.

So far, 42 dairy farms in nine states have tested positive for the virus. Although the USDA has declared the nation’s milk supply safe after finding only “fragments” of the virus in pasteurized milk, it continues to conduct regular testing and has issued an order requiring testing of all lactating dairy cattle entering the country. crosses state borders.

The USDA is offering each of the affected dairy farms and their employees up to $28,000 in assistance, which can be used for personal protective equipment, enhanced biosecurity measures, increased veterinary costs and heat treatment systems to deactivate the virus in discarded milk. The agency is also taking steps to make funding available to compensate dairy farmers for the loss of milk production due to the virus.

Transmission of the disease to dairy cattle has not been confirmed, but bird flu has proven fatal to several cats on dairy farms in Texas, New Mexico and Ohio that tested positive for the virus, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

As the world continues to grapple with the ongoing bird flu pandemic, which has devastated bird populations and is now infecting mammals, concerns are growing about the potential for human-to-human transmission. Experts are closely monitoring the situation and working to assess the risk that the current H5N1 strain may pose to humans.

Governments face difficult decisions when it comes to balancing the economic costs of vaccines against ensuring preparedness for a potential outbreak. Although the world has recent experience with large-scale vaccination programs due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the production of H5N1 vaccines poses significant technical challenges, and global influenza vaccine production capacity may need to be expanded to meet demand to be met in the event of a pandemic. a pandemic.

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