July 2, 2022

Human Protection Considered as H5N2 Avian Flu Spreads

The highly contagious avian flu H5N2 is spreading rapidly in some parts of the midwestern United States. As a precaution, farm workers are being offered antiviral medication as a preventative measure. The flu has not affected people yet, but it can mutate and make the jump from birds to humans.

The spread of this virus from person to person is very rare, and has not been sustained over time. But if the virus mutates, person to person transmission could occur. The symptoms of this illness in people include fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, and conjunctivitis of the eye. Lower respiratory illness, including pneumonia, have occurred. Sometimes, nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting can occur. Lab testing is required to establish a diagnosis.Turkeys

The virus has sickened turkeys and chickens in Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Dakota, and Iowa. About 300 people in those states are being told they should take the antiviral meds as a precaution.

So far, more than 7 million birds have been euthanized because they are on farms that have experienced the outbreak. In Minnesota, infections are being found on three or four new farms every day. In Iowa, 3.8 million hens in one egg-laying facility were hit with the virus. Both Wisconsin and Minnesota have declared emergencies and governors of those states have called up the National Guard to help deliver water and contain the control areas.

When the virus is found at a facility, the owners must immediately inform public health officials. A quarantine is announced, and measures are put into place to euthanize the birds and to limit access to the facility. The USDA will reimburse farmers for poultry killed as a preventive measure, but any birds that die from the illness are considered a loss.

States have set up avian influenza hotlines, such as the one in Minnesota. Numbers for reporting sick or dead poultry, sick or dead wild waterfowl, and general question about biosecurity will be answered at those hotlines. Permits are required for movement in or out of the control areas.

Officials hope that warmer weather will help stop the spread of the virus. But for now, it shows no signs of slowing down.

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