9 TX cities with positive wastewater

Plus, supporting injured employees with mental health, dealing with spring allergies in employees, and more

May 14, 2024

Bird Flu News

  • Wastewater testing found H5N1 in 9 Texas cities (out of just 10 tested) at levels that rivaled seasonal flu. Animals are believed to be the most likely source. (CIDRAP)
  • The U.S. earmarked nearly $200 million to help contain bird flu spread on dairy farms, including up to $28,000 per farm to contain the spread and test both milk and humans. (AP)
  • Final tests of US dairy samples were negative for H5N1, the FDA says. (Reuters)
  • CDC has tested 260 human dairy farm workers, 33 of whom had flu-like symptoms, with no positive test results for H5N1 so far. (CDC)
  • Researchers are infecting ferrets with H5N1 from the sick TX farm worker to study how it spreads. Ferrets get sick and spread flu viruses in a way that’s similar to humans. (CDC)
  • A turf battle between the USDA and the FDA may hamper bird flu response. (STAT)

Health News:

  • The WHO’s 194 member states are still working on drawing up a pandemic treaty, even after the initial deadline passed without an agreement. (Reuters)
  • Another major healthcare cyber attack forced the latest target, Ascension, to divert ambulances and take records offline. (AP)
  • The FDA recalled an app-based insulin pump after software crashes caused injuries. (USA Today)
  • Just a few days on the night shift can have serious health impacts in the long term. (Newsweek)
  • 1 in 8 adults has taken Ozempic or another GLP-1. 62% took it to treat a chronic condition like diabetes or heart disease, and 36% for weight loss. (The Hill)
  • There was a significant increase in imported malaria cases, primarily among newly arrived migrants, at the southern U.S. border in 2023. Malaria is not spread from person to person. (MMWR)
  • BSE (a.k.a. “mad cow”) was found in a Scottish breeding cow. (CIDRAP)
  • The Supreme Court denied California’s appeal for immunity for COVID-19 deaths at San Quentin prison. (AP)
  • Cue Health’s COVID-19 tests lead to false results and have unapproved changes, the FDA said in a warning to consumers not to use them. (STAT)

Mental Health & Substance Use News:

  • First responders and veterans cite the benefits of psychedelic drugs for helping with PTSD symptoms as California considers legalization. (KFF Health News)
  • AI chatbots are opening up new possibilities for mental health support, but they’re still no substitute for human therapists. (WSJ)

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide or need help, call 988 or message the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741. 

Best Questions:

What can we do to help an injured employee’s mental health?

Last week, we shared an interesting article from Axios about a workers’ comp study that found that behavioral health challenges that accompanied physical workplace injuries ended up keeping employees out of their jobs for almost 3x longer. Just 3% of injuries included behavioral or mental health challenges, but those made up over a third of total costs for employers. Injured workers with behavioral or mental health claims were also 3x more likely to use opioids. If you have an employee who was injured on the job, it may well be worth the investment to offer mental health services immediately, like covering the cost of talk therapy. Consider working with your HR and benefits teams to create options for injured workers to access mental or behavioral health care and making it a standard part of your worker’s comp process. Like EAPs, we suspect the majority of your injured workers won’t use them, but if it helps even one single employee, it could be worth it. 

Source: Axios

We have employees with a cough from allergies. Can they work? 

If an employee has a cough that’s caused by allergies, they can generally work, though we always recommend that a manager use discretion; if someone has a really bad cough and doesn’t look well, your guests may not want to be served by them, for example. Allergies really can cause coughs, often a chronic, dry cough that can last for weeks. If a cough is new, wet, or hacking, or accompanied by other cold or flu symptoms, including fever, it’s more likely to be a cold or flu than seasonal allergies. But if it’s accompanied by itchy eyes and sneezing, it gets better with allergy medication, or if it lasts more than a week, it’s more likely to be allergies. Generally, if someone reports that their cough is due to allergies, we recommend that they be allowed to continue working.

Sources: ACAAI

If we operate in Texas, should we be worried about bird flu in the wastewater?

There’s nothing businesses need to do right now about positive wastewater tests in Texas. The initial findings are certainly concerning in terms of just how widespread H5N1 may be on dairy farms, but they don’t necessarily mean much in terms of whether any humans are sick. Commercial farms produce a lot of waste, so it makes sense that nearby wastewater would test positive if they have sick cows. The initial results (which are not yet peer-reviewed) don’t show any genetic mutations that indicate that the virus is different from the one spreading between cows, nor that it’s specifically mutated to infect humans. What it does mean is that our initial estimates of just how many dairy cows might be infected could be even more of an underestimate than we thought. More wastewater testing results are on the way, and we’ll be eager to review them. 

Sources: CIDRAP, MedRxiv

Best Watch:

Watch: Restaurant workers can serve your food, bring your drinks, and maybe save your life - STAT