Bird Flu Vaccine in Development in Texas

Vaccine in syringe
Vaccine in syringe | Image by Ake Ngiamsanguan/Getty Images

Researchers in Texas are currently developing a vaccine for Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, also known as H5N1 Bird Flu, in anticipation of the virus mutating to become more transmissible to humans.

The researchers currently do not believe the virus is transmissible between humans, and just one person has been infected with the new bird flu. That person was a Texas man who was working with infected cattle. Cattle only recently became susceptible to the virus.

Efforts to develop a vaccine are being undertaken by Texas Biomedical Research Institute (Texas Biomed), which is based in San Antonio.

“I think there is no cause for immediate alarm here. We’ve been tracking this virus,” Dr. Larry Schlesinger, president and CEO of Texas Biomed, said, per KVUE. “But the future could indicate that the virus could continue to change in a way that might cause it to be more of a problem in humans. And we have to be highly vigilant on this particular strain of virus.”

The first case of this strain of bird flu in the United States was identified in 2022. The first person to contract the disease was confirmed that same year in England, according to a timeline produced by the CDC. The man who became infected raised ducks, which are known to be prominent carriers. Wild migratory birds are thought to have brought the virus to the United States.

Cases of bird flu have been detected all over the nation, from Oregon to Texas and New York. An outbreak in 2022 caused tens of millions of egg-laying hens to be euthanized, leading to a massive spike in egg prices. The current outbreak resulted in nearly 1 million hens being put down in North Texas earlier this month, as reported by The Dallas Express.

Bird flu has been identified worldwide and on every continent except Antarctica. It is fatal to birds but is not thought to have serious consequences for mammals. Cattle infected with the virus show signs of lethargy, a significant decrease in milk production, and an off-color. It is not clear what symptoms humans show. The man in Texas showed symptoms indicating a pink eye infection.

Wild birds spread the virus through feces and nasal drippings. In the infected cattle, the infection appears to be concentrated in their mammary glands. The United States Department of Agriculture says there is no significant risk to humans consuming eggs or milk as robust safety protocols are already in place to prevent transmission. They caution that people should not consume unpasteurized milk products until the virus is eradicated. Disease experts believe the current outbreak will end in the coming weeks as migratory bird patterns change.

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