As the H5N1 bird flu continues its historic spread, health experts are expressing concern about the potential spread to humans, in today's bite-sized hospital and health industry news from the District of Columbia and Maryland.
- District of Columbia: While U.S. health officials and the World Health Organization say the risk of H5N1 spreading to humans is "very low," experts have voiced concern about the virus' potential spread to humans. Around the world, millions of birds and several other species have contracted the virus, leading experts to say the threat of the virus cannot be dismissed. In Ecuador, a 9-year-old girl was recently infected, but health officials determined that she was in contact with poultry in her backyard before she became ill. If H5N1 started spreading among humans, it would signify the start of a "new global influenza pandemic," according to Rajiv Chowdhury, senior epidemiologist and professor of global health at Florida International University. "There is concern about it having pandemic potential," said Wendy Blay Puryear, a molecular virologist at Tufts University. "Before COVID was on anybody's radar, this was the one that we were all watching very closely." (Reed, Axios, 1/24)
- District of Columbia: According to an HHS report released Tuesday, roughly 1.5 million Medicare beneficiaries will likely see savings due to a provision of the Inflation Reduction Act that capped insulin prices at $35 for a monthly supply for Medicare Part D beneficiaries, effective Jan. 1. "I think we all could agree that no one should have to skip or ration their insulin because they can't afford it," said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. The report, which is based on claims data from 2020, found that 1.5 million beneficiaries with diabetes would have saved an average of $500 on insulin in 2020 if the $35 cap was in effect, Becerra noted. "These are the kinds of savings that will give people a little bit of breathing room to cover household costs or splurge on their grandkids," he added. (Firth, MedPage Today, 1/24)
- Maryland: In new draft guidance released Tuesday, FDA proposed new limits on the amount of lead that can be present in processed food products consumed by infants and young children. In particular, FDA noted that babies and young children are "more sensitive than adults to the neurodevelopmental effects of lead exposure." According to the agency, the updated limits are intended to decrease the potential health effects from dietary lead exposure. "The proposed action levels announced today, along with our continued work with our state and federal partners, and with industry and growers to identify mitigation strategies, will result in long-term, meaningful and sustainable reductions in the exposure to this contaminant from foods," said FDA Commissioner Robert Califf. "For babies and young children who eat the foods covered in today's draft guidance, the FDA estimates that these action levels could result in as much as a 24-27% reduction in exposure to lead from these foods." (Knutson, Axios, 1/24; Henderson, MedPage Today, 1/24)