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CDC asks states to amp up flu monitoring this summer to detect 'even rare' bird flu

Helena Oliviero, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in News & Features

A second person in the U.S. — a farmworker in Michigan ― has been infected with bird flu linked to dairy cows, federal health officials announced Wednesday.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a nasal swab from the worker in Michigan had tested negative for the H5N1 virus, but an eye swab sent to the agency tested positive. Like the infected person in Texas, the Michigan patient only reported eye symptoms. He has recovered, according to officials.

Officials said in a press conference Wednesday they were investigating the case to determine whether the worker was wearing personal protective equipment and how exactly the person might have gotten sickened by a cow presumed to be infected.

Officials said the risk to the public from bird flu remains low but the risk to farmworkers is “elevated” as a growing number of cattle are infected with bird flu.

In March, a worker at a Texas dairy farm was diagnosed with bird flu. That was the first documented case of the flu spreading from a cow to a human.

Earlier this week, the CDC’s principal deputy director, Dr. Nirav D. Shah asked state health officials around the country to continue monitoring for flu “at enhanced levels” throughout the summer to help catch bird flu cases in humans.

 

Flu monitoring usually falls or stops during the summer months when temperatures rise and the spread of flu viruses falls to minimal levels in the United States. In Georgia, the Department of Public Health closely tracks flu activity from October through mid-May and scales back its monitoring during the summer months.

But in a meeting with state health officials, CDC officials said they want local health departments across the country to maintain a heightened awareness of circulating influenza viruses given the ongoing outbreak of H5N1 among poultry and U.S. dairy cattle.

Shah asked state health officials to maintain their peak-season levels to help detect “even rare” cases of bird flu in humans.

The bird flu now affecting dairy herds is an H5N1 virus, which is a subtype of influenza A, a common version of the flu infecting mostly people.

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