Rare Disease Just Happens To Pop Up During Election Year

Here we go again.

The second-ever case of a human contracting what is known as the “highly pathogenic” bird flu was confirmed recently in Texas. For now, federal authorities say they are monitoring the situation and have downplayed the public health risk associated with this case.

It appears that the infection occurred at a dairy farm in Texas. While performing his duties, the worker was exposed to the virus and subsequently developed minor symptoms. According to state health officials, the worker has received treatment and is currently on the path to recovery.

The U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that the risk remains low. However, they’ve also highlighted that individuals with close or prolonged, unprotected exposure to infected birds or animals, including livestock, are at a higher risk of contracting the virus.

Interestingly, this is not an isolated incident concerning livestock. The USDA has reported infections among dairy cattle herds across several states, including Texas, Kansas, Michigan, New Mexico, and presumably Idaho. The movement of cattle, especially from Texas, has been identified as a factor contributing to the spread of the disease. As a result, some states, like Nebraska, have implemented temporary restrictions on cattle imports to mitigate the spread.

The H5N1/bird flu virus has had significant impacts on poultry worldwide, leading to billions of dollars in losses. Human infections, however, are rare, with the virus’s history tracing back to its transmission from geese to people in Hong Kong in 1997. Since then, human cases have been sporadic, with a significant concern among experts being the potential for human-to-human transmission, which, thankfully, has not occurred yet.

The Texan dairy worker’s case marks the second human infection in the U.S., but it’s notable for being the first contracted from cattle. Prior to this, a Colorado prisoner had contracted the virus in a different context.

In a broader context, the U.S. has witnessed the worst outbreak of bird flu in its history. The highly pathogenic avian influenza has affected millions of birds across numerous states, leading to extensive culling of commercial poultry and significant economic losses.

In response to the dairy worker’s infection, Cal-Maine Foods, a major poultry producer, was ordered to depopulate nearly 2 million chickens after a facility tested positive for the virus. This drastic measure underscores the seriousness with which authorities are taking the spread of this virus, emphasizing the need for heightened biosecurity measures among producers.

At a minimum this could have huge implications on food prices if this continues.


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