CDC Says Outbreak of North American Avian Influenza A in Poultry Poses Low Risk to People

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it is working closely with USDA APHIS and the Tennessee Department of Health to minimize any human health risk posed by the avian influenza outbreak in Lincoln County, Tennessee. This includes implementing a protocol to monitor the health of poultry workers exposed to commercial poultry involved in the  USDA/APHIS-confirmed highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) A (H7N9) outbreak. At this time, no human infections associated with this outbreak in Tennessee have been detected.

CDC considers the risk to the public's health from this North American H7N9 virus outbreak in commercial poultry to be low. In the past, there have only been a small number (fewer than 10 in 15 years) of reported human infections with North American avian influenza A H7 viruses. Most were associated with poultry exposure and have resulted in mild respiratory illness and/or conjunctivitis.

While the risk of human infection is low, CDC is working closely with USDA APHIS and state and local agriculture and public health partners to communicate about the possible impact on people of this animal outbreak, including steps people can take to reduce possible risk. CDC has longstanding guidance for the public related to previous domestic HPAI outbreaks:
•avoid wild birds and observe them only from a distance;
•avoid contact with domestic birds (poultry) that appear ill or have died;
•avoid contact with surfaces that appear to be contaminated with feces from wild or domestic birds.

CDC works 24/7 with public health and animal health officials in the U.S. and around the world to remain alert to reports of influenza A outbreaks in animals because influenza pandemics can result when a new (novel) influenza A virus emerges to infect people. CDC and non-CDC influenza experts have developed the Influenza Risk Assessment Tool to assess the possible pandemic risk posed by new influenza A viruses. Results are summarized routinely in a public table. CDC’s International Influenza Program works with a wide range of international partners including WHO and national ministries to build capacity to respond to pandemics and to reduce the effects of seasonal influenza.

Aware that new pandemics can arise at any time, CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have worked over the past decade to increase the capacity for global pandemic response. Influenza pandemic preparedness is only attained through the continued development and maintenance of a robust global influenza surveillance and detection network. Tools have been developed and refined to guide planning and response, including evaluating the pandemic risk posed by a new influenza A virus, assessing the potential public health impact posed by a new influenza A virus; understanding the possible progression of a pandemic; developing a pre-pandemic candidate vaccine virus, or vaccine; and evaluating the severity and transmissibility of the virus to inform public health interventions.

Source: CDC