Enhancing Awareness for Influenza During Periods of Low Incidence 

Human influenza A viruses are responsible for seasonal epidemics in people and are different from the influenza viruses that typically circulate in swine or wild birds, commonly known as novel influenza viruses. While rare, novel influenza viruses can spread between people and animal sources like birds, swine, or cattle. Novel influenza viruses are of public health concern because they can gain the ability to spread easily from person to person, which might cause the next influenza pandemic.

On May 22, 2024, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a second human case of highly pathogenic avian influenza (H5N1 bird flu) associated with an ongoing multi-state outbreak of H5N1 in dairy cows. Both human cases reported in the US this year had a negative nasal swab for influenza but tested positive for H5N1 through an eye swab.

Agricultural fairs bring communities together and are an important resource for youth educational programs. Influenza can spread wherever people and animals congregate, including at fairs and festivals. Past agricultural fairs in West Virginia have been linked to human infections caused by variant influenza A viruses that are commonly found in swine. Considering the ongoing circulation of influenza H5N1 in birds and dairy cattle including raw milk, the West Virginia Department of Health is enhancing surveillance for influenza during the summer months when influenza incidence is usually low.

To read the full health advisory, click here.

To learn more about the current H5N1 bird flu situation in the US, click here.

Distributed via the WV Health Alert Network – May 30, 2024