H5 influenza wastewater dashboard launches

wastewater warning sign

Luke Jones/Flickr cc

WastewaterSCAN, a national wastewater monitoring system based at Stanford University in partnership with Emory University, today launched an H5 avian influenza wastewater dashboard today, which shows detections at about a dozen locations, mostly in Texas and Michigan.

In other developments, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds issued a disaster proclamation for Cherokee County in the northwestern part of the state, following a highly pathogenic avian flu outbreak at a commercial turkey farm.

Wastewater positives mostly from affected states

The WastewaterSCAN group developed an H5 probe to test wastewater and recently reported significant levels at three treatment plants in communities where H5N1 had been detected in cattle. The scientists had also announced plans to use the H5 probe to test samples from all 190 WastewaterSCAN sites.

The team emphasized that the test isn't specific to H5N1 and can pick up low-pathogenic H5 influenza viruses. Also, they cautioned that the test can't identify the species that shed the H5 virus or the source. Detections could be coming from dairy-processing discharge or from other animals or humans.

Test results on the dashboard range from May 7 to May 30. Most of the positive detections are from sites in Michigan and Texas, two of the states hit hardest by H5N1 outbreaks in dairy cows. A few detections were also reported from a testing site in Idaho, another state where H5N1 has infected dairy cows.

The dashboard, however, also shows a few detections in states that haven't reported H5N1 in dairy cows—Iowa and Minnesota. Both states, though, have reported recent H5N1 outbreaks in commercial poultry. Minnesota reported detections at three different locations (Mankato, Red Wing, and St. Cloud), and Iowa reported a detection in Marshalltown.

Iowa disaster proclamation

Governor Reynolds yesterday announced the disaster proclamation for highly pathogenic avian flu in Cherokee County, the same day the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship reported an outbreak at a commercial turkey farm in the county.

In her statement, Reynolds said the disaster proclamation allows state agency resources to assist with tracking and monitoring, rapid detection, containment, disposal, and disinfection. She also added that the declaration waives rules for commercial vehicles that respond to affected sites.

In other avian flu developments:

  • The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) reported 11 more H5N1 outbreaks in dairy herds, all from previously affected states, bringing the total to 80. They include Idaho, Michigan, and South Dakota.
  • The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently posted its strategy for enhanced flu surveillance over the summer, given ongoing activity in cows, poultry, and other animals, and sporadic detections in farmworkers.
  • Scientists reporting preprint findings on a massive 2023 H5N1 outbreak in Argentina's elephant seals described more evidence of mammal-to-mammal transmission, as well as 18 mutations possibly linked to increased virulence, transmission, or adaptation to mammals. Eleven of them were found in the H5N1 virus that had infected a person in Chile. The team also identified a marine-mammal–specific clade.

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