April 24, 2024


USDA releases avian flu genetic data amid calls for transparency


The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has published genetic data from samples of the avian flu virus, responding to criticism from scientists who sought more public information to assess the ongoing outbreak, Scripps News reported.


Demands for increased transparency intensified after reports emerged in March of a dairy cattle herd in Texas, US testing positive for the pathogen.


While it's not uncommon for the bird flu to infect various mammals exposed to infected birds, the discovery of the virus, known as H5N1, in cattle marked a significant development. Officials noted that it does not appear as rapidly progressive and fatal in cattle as it does in birds.


The USDA suspects that dairy cattle are contracting the virus from wild bird exposure, though cow-to-cow transmission hasn't been ruled out.


Concerns about the bird flu have escalated as it continues to devastate bird populations nationwide and spreads to more mammal species, including an exceedingly rare human infection linked to the Texas dairy farm.


Despite this, both the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) consider the public risk low, with the USDA stating no evidence suggests changes making the virus more transmissible to humans.


The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) released 239 genetic sequences of H5N1 samples, taken from various animals, aiming to facilitate disease research and benefit the dairy industry.


While the USDA hasn't mandated testing for dairy herds, it encourages producers to monitor symptoms and alert state veterinarians if any signs arise.


The CDC made genome sequence analysis from an infected dairy farm worker in Texas available for scientific analysis.


Thus far, the avian flu hasn't significantly impacted the dairy industry or national milk supply, according to the USDA, but concerns linger for the commercial poultry sector.


-      Scripps News

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