CDC eyeing bird flu vaccine for humans, though risk is low

Published 8:06 am Thursday, April 23, 2015

MINNEAPOLIS — Federal officials said Wednesday they’re taking steps to create a human vaccine for the bird flu virus that’s slammed the Midwest poultry industry, though they still consider the danger to be low and the food supply not at risk.

Dr. Alicia Fry, an influenza expert with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said officials are hopeful there won’t be any human cases of the H5N2 strain — which has cost chicken and turkey producers more than 7 million birds since early March — but the country must be prepared.

“We’re really at the beginning of this and so are monitoring very closely. And we’re cautiously optimistic that we will not see any human cases,” Fry said on a conference call.

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Most humans who have come down with other bird flu viruses had close, prolonged contact with infected birds, Fry said, so officials are monitoring at least 100 farm workers who’ve been exposed to affected flocks. She said signs could be flu-like symptoms or conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye.