© 2024
Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

H5N1 is on North Dakota's radar

Backyard flock
Steven L Johnson
Backyard flock

State officials say there are response plans in place.

North Dakota health officials have H5N1 on their radar.

H5N1 is a highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza, or bird flu that’s been widely circulating in both backyard and commercial poultry flocks. It’s been recently discovered in pigs, cows and other mammals – including a few isolated human cases.

Levi Schlosser is influenza surveillance coordinator with North Dakota Health and Human Services. He says with the information available right now, risk to the greater public still remains low. While avian influenza has high mortality in birds, recent human infections have not been extreme.

"Both of those individuals, they had very few symptoms and recovered very quickly from their illness. The question about these current H5N1 infections is to what extent are they present in dairy cows; there's a lot we don't know about the virus and how it infects these animals, so that's why we're doing a lot more investigation into them. But overall, the risk to the public is considered low at this time."

Schlosser says humans who are exposed to H5N1 are followed up with by HHS to monitor progression of the virus, including the development of any signs or symptoms and administration of any anti-viral treatments. He also says the department has preparedness and mitigation plans in place if a larger response becomes necessary.

Schlosser also says there is work being done on the vaccine front. Current flu vaccines protect against circulating strains of influenza. He says the CDC is working on incorporating protection from H5N1.

"There are some candidate vaccines that CDC is preparing that is expected to provide good protection against the H5N1 in the event that we do see this virus infect more humans. That's not something we're currently seeing, but it's something CDC does have prepared."

Schlosser says as far as influenza goes – vaccination, covering your cough or sneeze, hand washing and staying home when sick remain the best protection against severe illness and spread of disease.