Avian Flu Fast Facts | CNN



CNN
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Here’s a look at avian flu.

Avian influenza, also called avian flu or bird flu, is an illness that usually affects only birds.

There are many different strains of avian flu: 16 H subtypes and 9 N subtypes. Only those labeled H5, H7 and H10 have caused deaths in humans.

The most commonly seen and most deadly form of the virus is called “Influenza A (H5N1),” or the “H5N1 virus.”

Most cases of human bird flu infections are due to contact with infected poultry or surfaces that are contaminated with infected bird excretions: saliva, nasal secretions or feces.

Symptoms of avian flu include fever, cough, sore throat and sometimes severe respiratory diseases and pneumonia.

The CDC recommends oral oseltamivir (brand name: Tamiflu), inhaled zanamivir (brand name: Relenza) and intravenous permavir (brand name: Rapivab) for the treatment of human illness associated with avian flu.

The mortality rate is close to 60% for infected humans.

Early 1900s –The avian flu is first identified in Italy.

1961 – The H5N1 strain is isolated in birds in South Africa.

December 1983 – Chickens in Pennsylvania and Virginia are exposed to the avian flu and more than five million birds are killed to stop the disease from spreading.

1997 – Eighteen people are infected by the H5N1 strain in Hong Kong, six die. These are the first documented cases of human infection. Hong Kong destroys its entire poultry population, 1.5 million birds.

1999 Two children in Hong Kong are infected by the H9N2 strain.

February 2003 – Eighty-four people in the Netherlands are affected by the H7N7 strain of the virus, one dies.

February 7, 2004 – Twelve thousand chickens are killed in Kent County, Delaware, after they are found to be infected with the H7 virus.

October 7, 2005The avian flu reaches Europe. Romanian officials quarantine a village of about 30 people after three dead ducks there test positive for bird flu.

November 12, 2005 – A one-year-old boy in Thailand tests positive for the H5N1 strain of avian influenza.

November 16, 2005 – The World Health Organization confirms two human cases of bird flu in China, including a female poultry worker who died from the H5N1 strain.

November 17, 2005 Two deaths are confirmed in Indonesia from the H5N1 strain of avian influenza.

January 1, 2006 – A Turkish teenager dies of the H5N1 strain of avian influenza in Istanbul, and later that week, two of his sisters die.

January 17, 2006 – A 15-year-old girl from northern Iraq dies after contracting bird flu.

February 20, 2006Vietnam becomes the first country to successfully contain the disease. A country is considered disease-free when no new cases are reported in 21 days.

March 12, 2006Officials in Cameroon confirm cases of the H5N1 strain. The avian flu has now reached four African countries.

March 13, 2006 – The avian flu is confirmed by officials in Myanmar.

May 11, 2006 Djibouti announces its first cases of H5N1 – several birds and one human.

December 20, 2011 – The US Department of Health and Human Services releases a statement saying that the government is urging scientific journals to omit details from research they intend to publish on the transfer of H5N1 among mammals. There is concern that the information could be misused by terrorists.

July 31, 2012Scientists announce that H3N8, a new strain of avian flu, caused the death of more than 160 baby seals in New England in 2011.

March 31, 2013 – Chinese authorities report the first human cases of infection of avian flu H7N9 to the World Health Organization. H7N9 has not previously been detected in humans.

December 6, 2013 – A 73-year-old woman infected with H10N8 dies in China, the first human fatality from this strain.

January 8, 2014 – Canadian health officials confirm that a resident from Alberta has died from H5N1 avian flu, the first case of the virus in North America. It is also the first case of H5N1 infection ever imported by a traveler into a country where the virus is not present in poultry.

April 20, 2015 – Officials say more than five million hens will be euthanized after bird flu was detected at a commercial laying facility in northwest Iowa. According to the US Department of Agriculture, close to eight million cases of bird flu have been detected in 13 states since December. Health officials say there is little to no risk for transmission to humans with respect to H5N2. No human infections with the virus have ever been detected.

January 15, 2016 – The US Department of Agriculture confirms that a commercial turkey farm in Dubois County, Indiana, has tested positive for the H7N8 strain of avian influenza.

January 24, 2017 – Britain’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs releases a statement confirming that a case of H5N8 avian flu has been detected in a flock of farmed breeding pheasants in Preston, UK. The flock is estimated to contain around 10,000 birds. The statement adds that a number of those birds have died, and the remaining live birds at the premises are being “humanely” killed because of the disease.

February 12, 2017 – A number of provinces in China have shut down their live poultry markets to prevent the spread of avian flu after a surge in the number of infections from the H7N9 strain. At least six provinces have reported human cases of H7N9 influenza this year, according to Chinese state media, Xinhua.

March 5-7, 2017 – The USDA confirms that a commercial chicken farm in Tennessee has tested positive for the H7N9 strain of avian flu, but says it is genetically different from the H7N9 lineage out of China. The 73,500-bird flock in Lincoln County will be euthanized, according to Tyson Foods.

February 14, 2018 – Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection announces that a 68-year-old woman has been treated for the H7N4 strain. This is the first case of this strain in a human.

June 5, 2019 – Since 2013 there have been 1,568 confirmed human cases and 616 deaths worldwide from the H7N9 strain of avian flu, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

December 2019 – The United Kingdom Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs confirms that a case of H5N1 avian flu has been detected at a poultry farm in Suffolk. 27,000 birds are humanely killed because of the disease.

April 9, 2020 – The USDA confirms that a commercial turkey flock in Chesterfield County, South Carolina has tested positive for the H7N3 strain of avian flu.

January 2021 – India culls tens of thousands of poultry birds after avian influenza is detected in ducks, crows and wild geese in at least a dozen locations across the country.

February 18, 2021 – Russian authorities notify WHO that they have detected H5N8 in humans. “If confirmed, this would be the first time H5N8 has infected people,” a WHO Europe spokesperson says in a statement.

June 1, 2021 – China’s National Health Commission announces the first human case of H10N3.

February 2022 – The USDA confirms that wild birds and domestic poultry in the United States have tested positive for the H5N1 strain of avian flu. By May 17, 2023, the CDC reports there are 47 states with poultry outbreaks.

April 26, 2022 – China’s National Health Commission announces the first human case of H3N8.

April 28, 2022 – The CDC announces a case of H5 bird flu has been confirmed in a man in Colorado.

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US government is testing avian flu vaccines for birds, but ending the historic outbreak isn’t that simple | CNN



CNN
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The United States is facing what some experts are calling “a new era for bird flu.”

Since January 2022, the country has been battling the biggest outbreak yet of highly pathogenic avian influenza in wildlife. The virus is a major threat to commercial and backyard flocks, and it has started to show up in hundreds of mammals, including a handful of pet cats.

The risk to humans is low; there has been only one human case of this virus in the US since the outbreak began, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and nine cases globally, mostly among people who work with birds. The CDC says there are trials underway of vaccines that could be used to protect humans in case the virus changes and becomes more of a threat.

Separately, the US Department of Agriculture, the US National Poultry Research Center and labs at a handful of American universities have been experimenting with vaccine candidates to be used in birds.

The USDA’s Agriculture Research Service started trials of four vaccine candidates for animals in April and expects to have initial data on a single-dose vaccine available this month. A two-dose vaccine challenge study – in which animals are exposed to the virus to see how well the vaccine works – should produce results in June.

If the animal vaccines look to be protective, the USDA’s next step would be to work with manufacturers on whether it would be feasible to use them.

One manufacturer, Zoetis, announced April 5 the development of a vaccine geared toward currently circulating virus strains. The company says it would take about a year to get to the distribution stage in the US.

Vaccines are already available in other countries, including China, Egypt, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico and Vietnam, and some nations are vaccinating their commercial flocks.

However, in the United States, not all poultry experts are ready to use a vaccine, even if one becomes available – at least, not yet. Instead, their focus remains on eradicating the virus.

As of April 26, the CDC says, nearly 58.8 million poultry have been affected by avian flu since January 2022. The virus has been detected in at least 6,737 wild birds, and the number is likely to be much higher. There have been poultry outbreaks in 47 states.

Although this is the worst outbreak in history, improved biosecurity measures have vastly reduced the number of cases in the commercial sector, according to the USDA. When the outbreak began in early 2022, there were 51 detections among commercial poultry. In March 2023, there were only seven.

The USDA says close surveillance work among its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and state and industry partners led to the reduction in cases.

Generally, there ares two ways of confronting this kind of highly infectious disease in poultry, according to Rodrigo Gallardo, a professor in poultry medicine and a specialist in avian virology at the University of California, Davis.

“One of them is through vaccination action. And then the other one is through eradication,” he said.

In the United States, the latter is the approach for now, Gallardo said.

If farmers detect even a single case in a flock, they will put down the birds right away.

“The virus keeps replicating and amplifying if the birds are alive, so the only way of stopping the replication and limiting the dissemination is by depopulation,” Gallardo said.

Tom Super, the senior vice president for communications for the National Chicken Council, the national trade association for the US broiler chicken industry, said in an email to CNN that although it supports the ongoing discussions about a vaccination program, “currently we support the eradication policy of APHIS and believe that right now this is the best approach at eliminating [bird flu] in the U.S.”

The US Poultry and Egg Association said it’s “certainly a topic of discussion,” but the organization doesn’t have a position on implementing a vaccination program.

A vaccination program comes with several complications, Gallardo said. Vaccinated birds would be protected, but with this highly infectious disease, they still could shed some virus that could infect unprotected birds.

“So vaccination, in that case, creates amplification if it is not done right,” Gallardo said.

Plus, it’s difficult to detect the disease in vaccinated birds. Birds that are vaccinated don’t always show signs if they’re sick, so it would be hard to know what birds to keep separate from the others. Tests also have a hard time telling the difference between antibodies generated by vaccination and antibodies from an infection.

“If you’re not able to diagnose it, it might spread more than what it would do if you are able to diagnose it and eradicate it,” Gallardo said.

Countries that have chosen the vaccination route see more endemic strains develop, meaning the virus is never really totally wiped out.

“This is a very variable virus, and if you don’t update the vaccine that you’re applying to meet the change in the virus, then you won’t be able to completely protect the birds. Partial protection means more birds will be spreading the virus,” Gallardo said.

A vaccine has never been used against highly pathogenic avian influenza in the US, according to the USDA. The agency created a vaccine after an outbreak in 2014 and 2015, but that involved a different strain, so it wouldn’t work on the latest version of the virus.

The logistics of a vaccine like this are difficult, said Dr. Yuko Sato, an associate professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Iowa State University.

“You have to make sure that the new vaccine will protect against this current virus and hope that it doesn’t mutate or change so that the vaccine will continue to be protective,” Sato said.

“The vaccine is not a silver bullet. This is not going to prevent infection of the birds, so in order to have an exit strategy as the country, you would have to make sure that if you vaccinate, if you still have positive birds, you have to be able to make sure that you could stamp out the virus. Otherwise, we’ll never be looking at eradicating the virus from the United States.”

Another concern: Birds are a big business in the US.

The US has the largest poultry industry in the world, with 294,000 poultry farms. The market size for chicken and turkey meat production alone for 2023 is projected to generate $57.8 billion, according to market analysis firm IbisWorld.

Bird flu has hurt business in the US, but it could do so in a bigger way if the nation vaccinates poultry, according to the National Chicken Council.

“The National Chicken Council does not support the use of a vaccine for [bird flu] for a variety of reasons – the primary one being trade. Most countries, including the US, do not recognize countries that vaccinate as free of [bird flu] due to concerns that vaccines can mask the presence of the disease. Therefore, they do not accept exports from countries that do vaccinate,” Super wrote in his email.

The US broiler industry is the second largest exporter of chicken in the world. It exports about 18% of the chicken meat produced in the United States, valued at more than $5 billion annually.

“If we start vaccinating for [bird flu] in the U.S., the broiler industry will lose our ability to export which will have a significant impact on the industry – while costing billions and billions of dollars to the U.S. economy every year,” Super said.

With the way the disease is spreading, scientists would also probably have to vaccinate wildlife – which is nearly impossible.

Of the birds affected in this outbreak, about 76% are commercial egg-laying hens, 17% are turkeys, and only 5% are broilers, the chickens used for meat, Super said. The rest of the cases have been among ducks, backyard chickens and game birds.

“So the U.S. poultry sector that least needs a vaccine would have the most to risk from using one,” he said.

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Proposed changes to school lunches aim to reduce sugar and sodium, but flavored milk stays | CNN



CNN
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If new US Department of Agriculture school food guidelines stand as proposed, chocolate milk is in, but for the first time ever, at least some added sugars will be out – and sodium levels will be reduced gradually.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack publicly announced the changes on Friday.

“The purpose of this is to improve the health and welfare of our children. And I think everybody who comes to this issue shares that goal and hopefully, collectively, we can make sure it happens,” Vilsack told CNN in an interview Thursday ahead of the announcement.

The federally assisted school meal program provides nutritionally balanced meals at school at low or no-cost.

More than 15.3 million kids every day get breakfast at school in the US and 29.6 million get a school lunch, Vilsack said. The numbers were higher earlier in the pandemic, when meals were offered free to all children regardless of their family’s income, but in June, Congress did not extend the Covid-19 pandemic waivers that had expanded the program.

While school meals are paid for by local and federal funding, the standards for what goes on a kids’ cafeteria tray are set by the USDA. The agency’s job is to make sure any meal served at school is nutritious and falls in line with the US Dietary Guidelines.

Flavored milk with “reasonable limits on added sugars” would be allowed under the proposal. Vilsack said school meal administrators tell the USDA that kids just won’t drink much no-fat skim milk or unflavored milk. “That’s not what they get at home,” Vilsack said. “We want to encourage kids to drink milk because there are there’s tremendous nutritional value in milk.”

However, the proposed standards would limit added sugar in certain high-sugar products like prepackaged muffins, yogurt, and cereal. Eventually, the guidelines would then limit added sugars across the weekly menu.

The standards would reduce sodium limits, but that would happen gradually over several school years.

“The [US Food and Drug Administration] provided some insight and direction by suggesting that it is easier for people to accept and adopt to reduced sodium if you do it over a period of time in small increments,” Vilsack said.

A gradual reduction would also give industry time to reformulate their products, said Dr. Lauren Au, an assistant professor at UC Davis’ Department of Nutrition who studies the effectiveness of school nutrition programs.

The guidelines would also place a bigger emphasis on whole grains, but still leave options open for an occasional non-whole grain product.

“Maybe a biscuit can be instituted for a little variety, or grits can be provided where that may make sense from a geographic standpoint. You are sensitive to cultural demands and needs,” Vilsack said.

The proposed rule would also strengthen the Buy American requirements encouraging schools to use more locally grown food.

The USDA will invest $100 million in the Healthy Meals Incentives initiative which offers farm-to-school grants and grants to buy equipment. In the 1980s, schools around the country tore out kitchens and bought prepackaged processed food. To make more nutritious meals, schools have had to rebuild or update kitchens.

“A lot of schools have outdated ovens, freezers, fridges, and that puts limitations on how they can prepare food, so grants that have helped with equipment have been really successful,” Au said.

The money would also reward schools that do a good job providing nutritious meals. Grants would also be aimed at small and rural districts and training.

Vilsack said the USDA created these proposed standards after the USDA received thousands of comments and held 50 listening sessions with parents, school food administrators, the food industry, public health and nutrition experts.

“Establishing these standards are difficult because you have to follow the science you have to follow the dietary guidelines, but you also have to understand that they need to be implemented in the real world which is which is which is tough,” Vilsack said in an interview with CNN.

Real world circumstances are tough already with the higher cost of food, staff shortages and supply chain problems.

Au hasn’t seen all of the proposed policies, but she said what she has seen look good.

“It’s a step forward in terms of promoting healthy nutrition in schools,” Au said. The reduction of added sugar, she added is a big deal.

“Reducing added sugars for this age range is so important,” AU said.

Megan Lott, deputy director for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation program Healthy Eating Research, said that the policies seem to be heading in the right direction.

“There are a couple of things we would probably like to see strengthened, but it also seems like there are plans to do that over time,” Lott said.

The sugar standard is a good start, she said, but she’d prefer the proposal instead say that no more than 10% of calories should come from added sugars across the meal plan.

“But we recognize that schools might need a little bit of time for implementation,” Lott said.

Lott had also hoped they would take flavored milk off the menu. Research shows that schools that have gotten rid of flavored milk show a drop in milk consumption for a year or two, but milk sales eventually rebound.

School food has become a proverbial hot potato.

After decades of bipartisan support for school meals, the program has been politicized in about the last 10 years Lott says, meaning there is bound to be some pushback.

Friday’s proposed changes would be the first large scale reform of school meal standards since President Barack Obama signed the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act into law.

The law that went into effect in 2012, championed by first lady Michelle Obama, really did improve US kids’ diet, studies show. The law raised the minimum standards and required schools to serve more whole grains, fruit, vegetables, and fat-free and/or low-fat milk more frequently and serve fewer starchy vegetables and foods high in trans fat and sodium.

Meals that were eaten by students – not just served to students and then tossed into garbage cans – were much healthier and had better overall nutritional quality, the study showed. Students who didn’t participate in the national program did not see an improvement in their diets.

Despite the program’s success, in 2018, the Trump administration announced a proposal to roll back many of the policies in the name of “flexibility,” including ones that involved sodium and whole grains. Trump’s policy would essentially create a loophole letting schools sell more burgers, pizza and french fries and reduce the fruit and vegetables sold. A federal court struck down the rule in April 2020.

During the pandemic, some of the polices were relaxed, like for whole grains, because it was difficult to find products, Lott said.

Studies show kids who eat meals at school ate more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and dairy, compared with those who ate at school less frequently.

Better nutrition can help prevent obesity. About 20% of the US population ages 2 to 19 live with obesity, which can cause kids to have high blood pressure, breathing problems and type 2 diabetes, and lead to lifelong health problems, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hungry kids have a hard time paying attention in class. Students who ate healthy meals at school scored better on end-of-year academic tests, studies have shown.

The new standards are just a proposal. The USDA will ask for additional feedback.

Vilsack is hopeful the standards will incentivize more schools to offer more healthy options.

“In terms of future of this program,” Vilsack said, “we want to see more and more school districts push themselves not only to meet the standards, but in some cases to exceed them.”

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