Staff Report-For The Record

Veterinary officials in the United States have reported a presumptive low-pathogenic H7N1 avian influenza outbreak in Texas.

The northeast Texas outbreak was detected in Hopkins County, according to aMarch 9, 2018, notification from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

This low-path H7N1 ‘bird-flu’ report follows a similar discovery at a turkey farm in Missouri during the first week of March 2018.

Hopkins County, Texas is located about 350 miles south of Jasper County, Missouri. The bird depopulation has already begun at both locations.

The disease detections in Texas and Missouri are the first cases of avian flu in the USA since a March 2017 discovery in Tennessee.

Additional low-pathogenic H7N9 outbreaks were reported during 2017 in poultry farms in Alabama, Georgia, and Kentucky.

A comprehensive investigation is underway by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the Texas Animal Health Commission.

‘Partial sequencing of the virus hemagglutinin suggests that the H7 is of the low pathogenic North American wild bird lineage. Further virus characterization is pending a final report,’ said Dr. John Clifford, the chief trade advisor and World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) delegate with the USDA.

Avian influenza refers to viruses that result in high death rates for birds, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The Texas and Missouri strains are not related to the H5N6 subtype that has infected poultry and people in South Korea and China.

Infectious disease experts say there are numerous differences between ‘bird flu and ‘seasonal flu’.

Human infections with avian flu viruses can happen when enough virus gets into a person’s eyes, nose or mouth, or is inhaled.

This can happen when the virus is in the air and a person breathes it in, or when a person touches something that has the virus on it then touches their mouth, eyes or nose. Infected birds shed avian influenza virus in their saliva, mucous and feces, says the WHO.

Currently, the best way to prevent infection with avian influenza virus is to avoid sources of exposure whenever possible reports the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

People who work with poultry or who respond to avian influenza outbreaks are advised to follow recommended biosecurity and infection control practices, which includes the use of appropriate personal protective equipment and careful attention to hand hygiene.

Additionally, the CDC currently recommends treatment with a neuraminidase inhibitor for human infection with avian influenza A viruses.

The CDC suggests that most viruses are susceptible to antivirals, such as oseltamivir, peramivir, and zanamivir.