Minnesotans in contact with avian flu birds getting preventative drugs

CHICAGO, April 23 (Reuters) – Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton declared a state of emergency on Thursday in response of the fast-spreading avian flu that has led to the extermination of more than 7.3 million birds in the United States.

State health officials also said the state has been expediting prescriptions for the antiviral drug Tamiflu, for farm workers and others who have been in direct contact with infected flocks in Minnesota.

No person has been infected with the highly pathogenic H5N2 strain of bird flu that has been identified on 44 Minnesota farms in 15 counties, and affected nearly 2.6 million birds in the state.

Michael Schommer, spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Health, said the agency has approached 140 farm workers and others in the state who had been in direct contact with infected birds.

Of those, 87 people were advised to take the Roche antiviral medication as a preventative measure. Seventy of them have done so, Schommer said.

Of the 62 people that state health officials have followed up with so far, none of them have been infected by the virus, Schommer said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday that the strain of avian flu that has been identified in 12 U.S. states is different from the H5N1 bird flu virus that has spread from birds to humans in the past.

An analysis of the genetic composition of avian viruses circulating in North America showed they do not contain genetic markers which in the past have been linked to more severe outbreaks in birds and transmission to humans, Alicia Fry, a medical officer in the CDC’s influenza branch, said on a conference call on Wednesday.

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