3rd person in US tests positive for bird flu amid dairy cattle outbreak

In late March a farmworker in Texas was diagnosed, in what officials called the first known instance of a person catching this version of bird flu from a mammal.
Bird Flu
Posted at 2:37 PM, May 30, 2024

A third person has contracted bird flu in the U.S. amid this year's outbreak.

On Wednesday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced it had detected the virus in one of the state's farmworkers who worked closely with cows positive for influenza A.

This is the second human case of bird flu to come out of Michigan this month. The first, announced on May 22, was found in a worker from a different farm who "had regular exposure to livestock" infected with the virus, MDHHS said.

Both cases come as the influenza virus has been traveling among dairy and poultry farms across the country since March, when the first case was confirmed in Texas dairy cattle. Soon after, a Texas farmworker became the first known person in the world to catch this strain of the virus from a mammal.

Chickens stand in their cages at a farm

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Despite 66 dairy herds in nine states now confirmed to have the bird flu, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still says the risk to the public remains low, so long as individuals aren't in close contact with infected animals.

Neither of the infected Michigan farmworkers was wearing full personal protective equipment when in contact with the sick cows, with the first experiencing eye discomfort symptoms from the virus after a "direct splash of infected milk to the eye." The second case also featured eye discomfort, as did the Texas case, along with respiratory symptoms like a cough. That worker received antivirals and is now recovering.

"PPE is an important tool in preventing spread among individuals who work on dairy and poultry farms," MDHHS said. "We have not seen signs of sustained human-to-human transmission, and the current health risk to the general public remains low."

In total, there have only been four cases of Type A H5N1 virus in the U.S. The true first, before this year's Texas farmworker, occurred in 2022 in Colorado when a prison inmate working at a poultry farm became sick while killing infected birds.