Following the first human case linked to the outbreak, the funding will bolster prevention measures, enhance disease tracking, and ensure biosecurity across affected dairy farms.

RT’s Three Key Takeaways:

  • The USDA and HHS are addressing the spread of H5N1 avian influenza in dairy cattle, allocating nearly $200 million collectively. This funding is aimed at enhancing testing, tracking, and treatment efforts, implementing biosecurity measures, and conducting risk assessments to safeguard both workers and the public, as well as ensuring the safety of the food supply.
  • The USDA is implementing several measures to assist producers affected by H5N1, including financial support for biosecurity improvements, reimbursement for veterinary costs associated with confirmed positive premises, offsetting shipping costs for testing, and compensating producers for loss of milk production.
  • The HHS, through agencies like CDC and FDA, is investing $101 million to mitigate the risk of H5N1 and continue testing, prevention, and treatment efforts. This includes funding for testing and laboratory capacity, epidemiology and surveillance, genomic sequencing, vaccine activities, and wastewater surveillance. The FDA is receiving an additional $8 million to support its ongoing response activities, particularly focused on ensuring the safety of the commercial milk supply. 

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will allocate nearly $200 million to combat the spread of H5N1 avian influenza in dairy cattle. 

This decision follows the detection of the virus in Texas, leading to the first confirmed human case associated with the outbreak in a dairy worker. The funding will support enhanced testing, tracking, and treatment efforts, alongside new biosecurity measures and risk assessments to mitigate risk to workers and the general public and ensure the safety of America’s food supply. 

United States Department of Agriculture

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The USDA announced assistance for producers with H5N1-affected premises to improve on-site biosecurity in order to reduce the spread. In addition, USDA is taking steps to make available financial tools for lost milk production in herds affected by H5N1. 

Building on the Federal Order addressing pre-movement testing, the USDA says these steps will further equip producers with tools to keep their affected herds and workers healthy and reduce risk of the virus spreading to additional herds.

The USDA’s measures include:

  • Provide financial support (up to $2,000 per affected premises per month) for producers who supply personal protective equipment (PPE) to employees and/or provide outerwear uniform laundering, for producers of affected herds who facilitate the participation of their workers in USDA/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) workplace and farmworker study. Complementary to USDA’s new financial support for producers, workers who participate in the study are also eligible for financial incentives to compensate them for their time, regardless of whether the study is led by federal, state, or local public health professionals.
  • Provide support (up to $1,500 per affected premises) to develop biosecurity plans based on existing secure milk supply plans. This includes recommended enhanced biosecurity for individuals that frequently move between dairy farms—milk haulers, veterinarians, feed trucks, AI technicians, etc. In addition, USDA will provide a $100 payment to producers who purchase and use an in-line sampler for their milk system.
  • Provide funding for heat treatment to dispose of milk in a bio secure fashion. This will provide producers a safe option for disposal of milk. Heat treatment performed in accordance with standards set by US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the only currently available method considered to effectively inactivate the virus in milk. If a producer establishes a system to heat treat all waste milk before disposal, USDA will pay the producer up to $2,000 per affected premises per month.
  • Reimburse producers for veterinarian costs associated with confirmed positive H5N1 premises. This provides support to producers to cover veterinary costs necessarily incurred for treating cattle infected with H5N1, as well as fees for veterinarians to collect samples for testing. This can include veterinary fees and/or specific supplies needed for treatment and sample collection. Veterinary costs are eligible to be covered from the initial date of positive confirmation at National Veterinary Services Laboratories for that farm, up to $10,000 per affected premises.
  • Offset shipping costs for influenza A testing at laboratories in the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN). USDA will pay for the cost of shipping samples to NAHLN labs for testing. USDA will pay actual shipping costs, not to exceed $50 per shipment for up to two shipments per month for each affected premises. Testing at NAHLN laboratories for samples associated with this event (eg, pre-movement, testing of sick/suspect animals, samples from concerned producers) is already being conducted at no-cost to the producer.

Taken together, these tools represent a value of up to $28,000 per premises to support increased biosecurity activities over the next 120 days.

Other USDA measures include: 

  • Compensate producers for loss of milk production. USDA is taking steps to make funding available from the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees, and Farm-raised Fish Program to compensate eligible producers with positive herds who experience loss of milk production. While dairy cows that have been infected with H5N1 generally recover well, and there is little mortality associated with the disease, it does dramatically limit milk production, causing economic losses for producers with affected premises. USDA can support farmers with the ELAP program to offset some of these losses. This compensation program is distinct from the strategy to contain the spread.
  • Work with states to limit movement of lactating cattle. USDA will work with and support the actions of States with affected herds as they consider movement restrictions within their borders to further limit the spread of H5N1 between herds to reduce further spread of this virus.

USDA will make $98 million in existing funds available to Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service to fund these initiatives. If needed, USDA has the authority, with Congressional notification, to make additional funds available.

Additional details on how producers can access and apply for the financial tools is forthcoming.

United States Department of Health and Human Services

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HHS announced new funding investments through CDC and FDA totaling $101 million to mitigate the risk of H5N1 and continue its work to test, prevent, and treat H5N1. 

“Although the CDC’s assessment of the risk of avian influenza infection for the general public continues to remain low at this time, these investments reflect the department’s commitment to prioritizing the health and safety of the American public,” reads a release from the agency.

The HHS set up a response team that includes four HHS agencies—CDC, FDA, National Institutes of Health (NIH), and Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response—that are working closely with USDA to:

  • Ensure communities are kept healthy, safe, and informed;
  • Ensure that the nation’s food supply remains safe;
  • Safeguard American agriculture and the livelihood and well-being of American farmers and farmworkers; and
  • Monitor any and all trends to mitigate risk and prevent the spread of H5N1 among both people and animals.

The HHS announced additional resources to further these efforts through CDC and FDA. An additional $93 million has been identified to support the CDC’s current response efforts for avian influenza. HSS says these investments will allow CDC to bolster testing and laboratory capacity, surveillance, genomic sequencing, support jurisdictions and partner efforts to reach high-risk populations, and initiate a new wastewater surveillance pilot.

The funding includes: 

  • $34 million in testing and laboratory capacity to:
    • Develop and optimize assays that can be used to sequence virus independent of virus identification.
    • Assess circulating H5N1 viruses for any concerning viral changes, including increased transmissibility or severity in humans or decreasing efficacy of diagnostics or antivirals.
    • Support the ability of STLT Public Health Labs throughout the country to surge their testing abilities, including support for the additional costs of shipping human avian influenza specimens, which are select agents.
    • Through the International Reagent Resource, support the manufacture, storage, and distribution of roughly one thousand additional influenza diagnostic test kits (equaling nearly around 1 million additional tests) for virologic surveillance. The International Reagent Resource would also provide influenza reagents for research and development activities on a global scale. This is in addition to current influenza testing capacity at CDC and in STLT public health and Department of Defense labs, which is approximately 490,000 H5-specific tests.
    • Address the manufacturer issue detected with current avian flu test kits.
    • Initiate avian flu testing in one commercial laboratory.
  • $29 million in epidemiology, surveillance, and data analytics to:
    • Scale up existing efforts to monitor people who are exposed to infected birds and poultry to accommodate workers at likely many more poultry facilities, as well as potentially workers at other agricultural facilities and other people (eg, hunters) who may be exposed to species that pose a threat.
    • Scale up contact tracing efforts and data reporting to accommodate monitoring of contacts of additional sporadic cases.
    • Support the collection and characterization of additional clinical specimens through established surveillance systems from regions with large numbers of exposed persons to enhance the ability to detect any unrecognized cases in the community if they occur.
    • Expand respiratory virus surveillance to capture more samples from persons with acute respiratory illness in different care settings.
    • Support continuation and possible expansion of existing respiratory surveillance platforms and vaccine effectiveness platforms.
  • $14 million in genomic sequencing to:
    • Provide bioinformatics and data analytics support for genomic sequencing at CDC that supports surveillance needs for enhanced monitoring.
    • Expand sequencing capacity for highly pathogenic avian influenza in state-level National Influenza Reference Centers, Influenza Sequencing Center, and Pathogen Genomic Centers of Excellence.
  • $8 million in vaccine activities to:
    • Analyze circulating H5N1 viruses to determine whether current candidate vaccine viruses would be effective and develop new ones if necessary.
  • $5 million in state, tribal, local, or territorial jurisdiction/partner funding to:
    • Support partner efforts to reach high-risk populations.
  • $3 million in wastewater surveillance to:
    • Initiate wastewater pilot to evaluate the use case for highly pathogenic avian influenza in up to 10 livestock-adjacent sites in partnership with state and local public health agencies and utility partners.
    • Implement a study to evaluate the use of Influenza A sequencing in wastewater samples for highly pathogenic avian influenza typing. Initiate laboratory evaluation for HA typing and examine animal-specific markers in community wastewater to assess wildlife and livestock contribution and inform interpretation of wastewater data for action.

An additional $8 million is being made available to the FDA to support its ongoing response activities to ensure the safety of the commercial milk supply. This funding will support the agency’s ability to validate pasteurization criteria, conduct surveillance at different points in the milk production system, bolster laboratory capacity, and provide needed resources to train staff on biosecurity procedures. 

Additionally, these funds will help support H5N1 activities in partnership with state co-regulatory partners, who administer state programs as part of the federal/state milk safety system. It may also allow the FDA to partner with universities on critical research questions, according to the HHS.

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