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United States Health Officials Sound Alarm Over Alarming Bird Flu Virus Mutation

Visual Representation for Bird Flu Mutation | Credits: Getty Images

United States: The health officials have sounded alarm after witnessing alarming trend about the ‘mutation’ of bird flu virus. The latest diagnosis of avian influenza in a human subject has disclosed a “remarkable” genetic mutation within the virus, as per the officials.

The incident, pinpointed this month in a laborer within the dairy industry in Michigan, denotes the second instance of human contraction associated with the widespread H5N1 epidemic among American bovine livestock.

The examination of genetic sequencing has recently detected a modification within the virus compared to a prior case of a dairy worker in Texas, prompting concerns about the virus’s evolutionary trajectory toward enhanced human infectivity.

The subtle alteration in the genetic configuration of the virus is “linked with the viral adaptation to mammalian hosts,” as indicated by the Centre for Disease Control in a declaration issued on Friday.

This mutation has also been identified as contributing to the augmentation of virus replication and the severity of the illness in mice during experimental trials with avian influenza strains, the agency further elaborated.

“This underscores the imperative nature of conducting thorough sequencing of each virus strain originating from bovines, felines, and individuals infected with H5N1, a prerequisite for a swift and efficacious global response concerning vaccine and antiviral development,” remarked Dr. Rick Bright, an immunologist and influenza specialist, on X (formerly Twitter).

Despite the evolutionary progression of the virus, the CDC underscores its close relation to the clade of H5N1 prevalent among American dairy cattle, aligning closely with the two potential vaccine strains currently accessible to manufacturers, should the need arise.

Experts speculate a probable increase in human cases of H5N1 among dairy industry workers in the imminent weeks and months, coinciding with escalated surveillance initiatives nationwide.

Presently, there are at least 350 individuals under observation who have been exposed to cattle infected with avian influenza, identified across a minimum of 68 herds spanning nine states.

Recently, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) unveiled a fresh array of measures to incentivize farmers to intensify their monitoring endeavors, facilitating a more comprehensive comprehension of the virus’s dissemination.

The agency pledges financial assistance of up to $1,500 to any farm implementing a biosecurity protocol, encompassing “enhanced” measures for personnel traversing between dairy farms, such as veterinarians, milk haulers, and technicians—though the specifics of such measures remain unspecified.

Furthermore, the USDA commits to covering the expenses associated with H5N1 testing in cattle, extending up to $2,000, including supplementary charges for sample transportation to laboratories.

Visual Representation | Credits: Reuters

Meanwhile, traces of the H5N1 avian influenza virus were discovered in meat from a dairy cow slated for slaughter last week, instigating apprehensions regarding potential transmission via the food chain.

The USDA emphasizes the safety of the US meat supply but advocates for thorough cooking of beef to an internal temperature of no less than 160 degrees Fahrenheit, categorized as ‘well done’.

While the World Health Organization (WHO) assesses the risk to humans as minimal, it urges nations to expedite information sharing to facilitate real-time surveillance, ensuring readiness as the virus continues its propagation.

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