June 1, 2024 – The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including its four agencies CDC, FDA, NIH, and ASPR, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), remain focused on keeping communities healthy, safe, and informed in response to the outbreak of H5N1 in dairy cattle. CDC continues to assess that the risk to the general public is low.

However, farmworkers who work closely with infected animals are at a higher risk of infection. As a result, across the U.S. Government, the Administration has taken a number of actions to enhance farmworker safety and to provide clear information to inform decisions made by workers and employers. For more information on the ongoing response, please visit FDACDC, and USDA’s ongoing H5N1 update pages.

If farmworkers or others with contact to infected animals are feeling sick, or exposed to livestock is in need of personal protective equipment (PPE) they should contact their state health department for assistance. Additionally, the U.S. Government is taking the following actions to reduce the risk to farm workers:

Protecting Farmworkers and the Public

PPE Assistance: The Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR) is making PPE available to protect farmworkers and others who may come in contact with infected animals through the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS), supplementing commercial availability and state-managed stockpiles. States can request face shields, face masks, gloves, and goggles from the SNS if needed, giving them further flexibility to comply with CDC recommendations. ASPR will also make oseltamivir (Tamiflu) available upon request to jurisdictions that do not have their own stockpiles and are responding to treatment of symptomatic persons with exposure to confirmed or suspected infected birds, cattle, or other animal exposures. To date, ASPR has worked with six states to provide PPE to ensure farmworker safety. Additionally, USDA is providing financial support for producers who supply PPE to employees and/or provide outerwear uniform laundering, for producers of affected herds who facilitate the participation of their workers in USDA/CDC workplace and farmworker study.
Genomic Analysis: CDC will continue to perform timely analyses of HPAI (H5N1) virus isolates to identify genetic changes that might allow for spread more easily to and between people, more serious illness in people, reduce susceptibility to antivirals, affect the sensitivity of diagnostic assays, or reduce neutralization of the virus by vaccine induced antibodies.
Safety Guidance: CDC and USDA have updated guidance for people who work on dairy farms and in slaughterhouses, provided guides for how they can protect themselves, and continue to engage with state health departments to encourage them to have concrete plans in place to be able to test and treat workers in the event of an H5N1 outbreak among livestock. In response, additional tools have been added so farmers can better keep their herds and workers healthy and reduce the risk that the virus may spread to additional herds. USDA issued a Federal Order to limit spread of the disease, which included mandates for testing prior to interstate movement of lactating dairy cattle, a ban on interstate movement for affected herds for 30 days, and a requirement that labs share positive tests with the federal government. This has resulted in increased testing of cattle over the last month since the order was implemented.
Treatment: CDC had posted recommendations for Influenza Antiviral Treatment and Chemoprophylaxis with oseltamivir.
Educating Workers on Avian Flu: USDA and HHS’s Office of Intergovernmental & External Affairs (IEA) has held regular briefings with a broad range of organizations focused on food system workers (e.g., animal production workers, farmworkers, meat and poultry workers) and rural health stakeholders to keep them apprised on the latest developments and share information and written resources in multiple languages about the supports that the federal government is making available to protect workers. ASPR, CDC, and USDA have been regularly communicating with state agriculture and health officials as well as other partners about these resources. CDC is also investing in targeted social media, streaming audio, and display ad placement in areas with infected herds to reach poultry and livestock farmers, dairy farmers, and other farm workers with messages about their heightened risk and recommended protective measures in English and Spanish.

Monitoring and Understanding Disease Transmission and Severity

Health Surveillance: CDC working across the U.S. Government has identified an additional $93 million to make further investments in epidemiology, surveillance, and data analytics; wastewater and genomic surveillance; testing and laboratory capacity; vaccine activities; and partner efforts to reach high-risk populations. This builds on experience battling avian influenza globally and domestically – their system allows CDC to spot flu infection trends in advance and positions the agency to be able to detect this virus, down to the individual case.
Exposure Monitoring: CDC is working with state and local health authorities to monitor exposed persons for illness. In most states, this means state public health officials are working with a trusted messenger in the community to alert public health when someone becomes symptomatic; in Michigan, state public health has direct daily contact with some impacted workers through texts.Source: HHS


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