White house is considering vaccinating chickens to contain the worst bird flu outbreak in history

President Biden is considering vaccinating chickens to contain the worst bird flu outbreak in history.

The White House is considering introducing vaccines for chickens in the United States.

Some industry leaders oppose rolling out the shots because it creates obstacles.

According to reports, the White House is considering rolling out a mass bird flu vaccine to American chickens amid a record outbreak.

About 60 million birds were culled in the US and 200 million globally to prevent the spread of the H5N1 strain last year, driving up chicken and egg prices since early 2022.

There are fears that the virus will be transmitted to humans if it acquires dangerous mutations, while infection rates are very high, as the virus has already been detected in other mammals such as mink, sea lions, and foxes.

White House officials told The New York Times that President Joe Biden is open to rolling out an avian flu vaccine for the country's birds. It needs to be determined how many birds will be targeted -- about 10 billion chickens alone are produced in America each year just for meat.

The White House is considering rolling out a vaccine for the country's chicken population, hoping to inoculate the billions of birds produced in the United States each year to curb the spread of the H5N1 bird flu virus.

Last month, a little girl in Pri Veng, Cambodia, died of bird flu. Her infection was not from the same strain circulating in most parts of the world, but it raised the alarms of many global health officials.

Fears about an outbreak of bird flu came to a head last month when an 11-year-old girl in Cambodia died of bird flu, and her father also tested positive.

Both were found to contain an older clade of H5N1 that was not responsible for the current global outbreak and are believed to have been infected by a bird.

But the cases highlight the risk of spreading zoonotic diseases.

It could take years to inoculate tens of millions of poultry in the United States, opening up other concerns.

Experts fear the start-up could affect trade and even make it difficult to identify infected birds.

The USDA has not disclosed details about the vaccines it will use in testing, although a few are in development.

At the UK's Pirbright Institute, scientists are working to develop an improved dose that involves tagging influenza virus proteins with a tag that makes it easier for antigen-presenting cells (APCs) to pick them up.

This generates faster and stronger immune responses to the avian influenza strain than the inactivated virus vaccine that is the current standard.

Scientists at the University of Wisconsin, College of Veterinary Medicine, are working on an avian flu vaccine that uses particles as small as the width of a human hair to deliver immunity by sending pathogen-like signals to cells.

If the updated dose proves effective, that will open the door for USDA approval, followed by a mass vaccination campaign seeking access to the affected commercial poultry industry.

While vaccines have been used to fend off avian influenza in the past, the USDA has not approved one for what is considered "highly pathogenic" avian influenza.

Avian influenza in the "low pathogenicity" category is not uncommon in wild birds and usually causes few or no signs of infection.

There is already an existing shot for fowlpox, a viral infection that results in lesions on the skin of birds, which many domesticated birds already receive.

Flu vaccines have already been given to birds in China, Egypt, Mongolia, and Vietnam - regions where strains of the virus are endemic among poultry.

But it is still being determined if these shots will be effective against the circulating H5N1 strain.

Even if that were the case, vaccinating domesticated birds in the United States is an endeavor that could take years. Nearly 10 billion chickens are produced in America each year just for meat.

This figure does not include Turkey, other poultry, and chicken produced for other purposes.

Dr. Carol Cardona, a bird health expert at the University of Minnesota, told the Times that individual facilities with more than 5 million birds would need more than two years to get the job done.

Some industry leaders also oppose rolling out a bird vaccine.

While it may save the lives of some animals, it also opens the door to potential problems.

If the vaccine only prevents birds from developing symptoms of infection but does not prevent virus transmission, it can become difficult for farmers to identify infected flocks.

This allows the virus to spread further, now undetected by humans, and cause more harm to both poultry, but also increases the potential for transmission of the virus to humans.

The vaccine's introduction also opens the door to import and export restrictions on birds based on vaccine status.

"Despite initially appealing as a simple solution to a pervasive and troubling problem, vaccination is neither a solution nor a simple one," Tom Soper, a spokesman for the National Chicken Council, told the Times.

While controlling the prices of chicken and eggs is important to officials, their main concern is the fear of transmission of the virus to humans.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the agency still considers the risk of bird flu to humans low. "But we cannot assume that this will remain the case, and we must prepare for any change in the status quo," he said earlier this month.

Fewer than 900 cases of H5N1 infection in humans have been recorded, almost all resulting from the animal-to-human transmission.

This occurs when the virus, usually from bird droppings, saliva, or another liquid, enters a person's mouth, nose, eyes, or open wound.

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