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US sees third confirmed human bird flu case

Helena Oliviero and Zachary Hansen, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in Health & Fitness

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Thursday a third human case of bird flu associated with the growing outbreak in dairy cows. But this case is different and worrisome because it’s the first to prompt more traditional influenza-like symptoms in humans, raising concerns of possible further spread and mutation.

The case is the nation’s fourth confirmed A(H5N1) avian influenza case in the U.S. Unrelated to the current dairy outbreaks, a worker in Colorado developed the virus in 2022 after working to depopulate and dispose of infected poultry. That person recovered.

The CDC said a second dairy worker in Michigan developed the disease after exposure to H5N1-infected cows, and at a different farm from the case last week. The latest person reported symptoms to local health officials: upper respiratory tract symptoms, including cough and eye discomfort with watery discharge. The patient didn’t have a fever.

The prior two confirmed human infections did not have upper respiratory tract symptoms but did have conjunctivitis. National health officials emphasized that avian influenzas usually affect respiratory systems. The latest patient is being treated with oseltamivir, the antiviral drug sold under the brand name Tamiflu.

The person is isolating at home and recovering. So far, household contacts of the patient are not showing symptoms but are being monitored for illness. They have also been offered Tamiflu as a preventive. There is no evidence that H5N1 is spreading from person to person, the CDC said.

The newly emerged case does not immediately change the risk for the general public, which remains low, according to the CDC. But the federal agency said they are doing a genetic analysis of the virus sample and will look for any changes in the virus that could change the agency’s risk assessment.

 

The CDC says it wants states to help make PPE available to all dairy farm workers though the agency stresses the priority is farms with affected herds.

“These cases, both the prior two as well as the latest one, demonstrate the important of PPE,” said CDC Principal Deputy Director Nirav Shah.

As of Thursday, there have been 67 dairy herds across nines with cattle infected by the bird flu, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. In addition to herds in Michigan, dairy cattle in Colorado, Kansas, Idaho, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, South Dakota and Texas have also tested positive for bird flu.

While Georgia has not yet had a bird flu case associated with the growing outbreak in dairy cows, health and agriculture officials are starting to ramp up efforts to help prevent the spread of avian influenza.

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