Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are worried that a strain of flu that has killed 48 million birds this year could spread to humans.
As of now there is no vaccine for the influenza, which could return to the United States this fall.
“We don’t want to see any, but we are getting ready in case there are cases of human infection,” Dr. Michael Jhung, the head of the CDC’s Influenza Division, told CNBC’s On the Money.
CDC researchers started researching the possibility that the flu could infect humans in April, USA Today reported.
“These are the first of these types of viruses that we’ve seen in the United States,” Jhung said. “Because they’re new, we’re a little concerned because we don’t know how dangerous they could be.”
In May, researchers discovered that the strain of avian influenza in question, H5N2, was airborne.
Most of the birds killed were chickens and turkeys at factory farms in the Midwest.
The flu killed so many chickens that it caused the wholesale price of eggs in the Midwest to rise by 135 percent, from $1.19 a dozen in April to $2.80 a dozen in July, CNBC reported. Some analysts believe the price at the supermarket could rise to as high as $6 a dozen.
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Bird flu, which is apparently spread by migrating waterfowl, disappeared in June but United States Department of Agriculture scientists say it could return in the fall, when migrating birds fly once again. The hot, drier weather in the summer temporarily kills off the virus.
Two other strains of avian influenza, H5N1 and H7N9, can cause serious diseases in people, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The CDC, Jhung said, is “preparing for human cases of infection with this bird flu virus, even though there have been none.” CDC officials are “looking at the virus itself to see if it has any traits that might make it cause more severe disease in people, or could be more easily transmittable.”
But Jhung did have some good news.
“There’s no evidence to suggest you can get bird flu from eating properly cooked poultry or eggs,” he said.
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