Author: Rachel Roubein Lena H. Sun

How prepared the U.S. is for a bird flu pandemic

Source(s): Washington Post, the

Federal officials are preparing for the possibility of additional human cases of bird flu, testing components to create a vaccine after a Texas dairy worker was infected with the highly virulent virus, even as they stress the United States remains far from needing to activate a full-blown emergency response

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The heightened attention on bird flu comes after the virulent H5N1 strain was recently identified in U.S. dairy cattle for the first time. Federal and state officials announced Monday that a dairy worker in Texas is being treated for bird flu, marking the second-ever human case of this bird flu strain in the United States. The patient — who experienced eye inflammation as the only symptom — was exposed to cattle presumed to be infected with the virus. Disease trackers are monitoring for additional cases, particularly whether the virus can jump from human to human, which has happened infrequently and would be cause for more alarm.

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Federal officials point to some good news: Manufacturing a vaccine to match this specific strain of the virus and then mass producing it is vastly easier than the effort to develop a coronavirus vaccine. That’s because there are already vaccines to combat the bird flu. They can be altered, experts say, to better protect against this specific strain.

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