Second case of bird flu in humans confirmed in Michigan

Bird flu has spread from wild birds to dairy cattle, and now humans - Photo by UnSplash +

Both cases were found in dairy farm workers

While bird flu has spread to affect dairy products, other farm animals, and even pet cats, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has now confirmed that two humans have also contracted the infection. 

The first case was identified in Texas, and the most recent one was in Michigan, and both infected individuals worked on dairy farms where cows had been infected with the virus. 

The CDC explained that an initial nasal swab from the Michigan farm worker came back negative, but an eye test that was sent to the agency for testing came back positive.

The patient only had mild eye symptoms consistent with pink eye and has since recovered, which exactly mirrors the symptoms and outcome of the first patient in Texas. 

“Michigan has led a swift public health response, and we have been tracking this situation closely since influenza A (H5N1) was detected in poultry and dairy herds in Michigan,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, the state's chief medical executive.

“Farmworkers who have been exposed to impacted animals have been asked to report even mild symptoms, and testing for the virus has been made available.” 

What’s the risk for consumers? 

Even though there have been two human cases of bird flu, the CDC says the risk for consumers remains low. 

The agency explained that the virus is continuing to spread rapidly among dairy cows, and those who are hands-on with the animals have the highest risk of contracting it. 

“The current health risk to the general public remains low,” Bagdasarian said. “This virus is being closely monitored, and we have not seen signs of sustained human-to-human transmission at this point. This is exactly how public health is meant to work, in early detection and monitoring of new and emerging illnesses.” 

Preventing infection

Michigan health officials encourage all farmworkers to get the seasonal flu vaccine, as this can help protect them from co-infection between bird flu and the seasonal flu. 

For those who don’t interact with animals on a regular basis, the CDC has shared some tips for preventing infection: 

  • Avoid any kind of exposure to sick or dead animals, including poultry, domesticated birds, wild birds, cows, and other wild or domesticated animals. 

  • Avoid exposure to raw milk, raw cheese, animal poop, litter, or anything that has been contaminated by an animal that has bird flu. 

  • Personal protective equipment should be worn when in direct or close contact with sick or dead animals. 

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