05/24/2024
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Staff report

The Bladen County Health and Human Services Agency’s recent press release confirmed the first human case of novel influenza A(H5N1) in Texas. First released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on April 1, 2024, the reported case highlights the emergence of this avian-origin virus in human populations, prompting immediate action and preventive measures.

The infected individual exhibited eye redness, consistent with conjunctivitis, as the sole symptom and did not require hospitalization. Notably, there have been no documented cases of human-to-human transmission, offering some reassurance amidst the emergence of this novel strain. However, the CDC has issued interim recommendations for prevention, monitoring, and public health investigations, emphasizing the importance of proactive measures in containing potential outbreaks.

Simultaneously, the National Veterinary Services Laboratory identified Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in a dairy herd in North Carolina, signaling the need for coordinated efforts between health and agriculture authorities. Collaborative initiatives between the NC Division of Public Health (NC DPH) and the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS) aim to safeguard workers and monitor for potential human infections.

Despite these developments, there are assurances regarding the safety of the commercial milk supply, as products undergo pasteurization before reaching consumers. The FDA and USDA affirm that pasteurization effectively neutralizes bacteria and viruses, including influenza, mitigating concerns about transmission through dairy products.

Dr. Terri Duncan, Bladen County Health Director, underscores the absence of reported cases in Bladen County, stating, “There have been no cases of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza reported in Bladen County.” However, local surveillance efforts, preparedness measures, and continued vigilance remain paramount.

The collaborative efforts between federal agencies, state health departments, and agricultural authorities reflect a comprehensive approach to address the emerging public health challenge posed by HPAI A(H5N1) viruses. Regular updates from the NCDA&CS provide crucial information to stakeholders, enabling informed decision-making and proactive response strategies.

As the situation unfolds, the CDC continues its close collaboration with partners to monitor individuals exposed to infected animals, reinforcing the importance of surveillance and preparedness in mitigating potential risks. While the current assessment indicates controlled transmission dynamics, the evolving nature of influenza viruses underscores the need for sustained vigilance and preparedness efforts to safeguard public health.

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