CDC monitors worst bird flu outbreak since 2015: 5 notes

The CDC is closely monitoring a lethal strain of bird flu that has been identified in 17 states since February, NBC News reported March 23.

Five notes:

1. Most cases of the H5N1 virus have occurred among birds in commercial and backyard flocks in the Midwest and on the East Coast. 

2. No human cases have been identified, and the risk to humans is low, according to CDC spokesperson Kate Grusich.

“Based on past experience with earlier H5N1 bird flu viruses — and what is known about this group of viruses from existing epidemiologic and genetic sequence data — CDC believes the health risk to the general public is low,” she told NBC News.

3. The CDC said it will monitor people who’ve been exposed to birds infected with the virus.

4. Some experts have expressed concern that the virus’s continued spread could give it more opportunities to develop mutations that allow it to jump to humans.

“New strains of influenza that are introduced to the human population and can cause global pandemics often originate from these animal sources, in particular birds,” William Schaffner, MD, an infectious diseases expert at Nashville, Tenn.-based Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told NBC News. “There is a risk that some of these bird flu strains may pick up the genetic capacity to infect humans.”

5. This bird flu outbreak marks the worst since 2015, when nearly 50 million birds were killed or died from the virus, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture cited by NBC News.

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