American Contracts Bird Flu After Exposure to Virus Spreading in Cows

By | April 2, 2024

A person in Texas contracted bird flu, most likely after being exposed to infected dairy cows, public health officials said, as an emerging outbreak among the animals spreads in the country.

The risk to the general population remains low, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. It is the second human case of bird flu, formally known as highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza, in the US since 2022 when infections started gaining speed in wild and domesticated birds and other mammals.

The patient, who had no symptoms apart from red eyes suggestive of conjunctivitis, is receiving antiviral drugs and recovering, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

The outbreak among dairy herds is relatively recent, with early reports of infected cows from Kansas, Michigan, New Mexico and Idaho. Unlike with chickens and other poultry flocks that are generally culled to prevent the spread of the virus, the US Department of Agriculture isn’t recommending the destruction of infected cows “at this stage.”

The situation is “rapidly evolving,” the USDA said. The CDC is working with state health departments to monitor people and groups that may be at risk.

Photo: A cow in the shade at a dairy farm in Porterville, California, US, on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022. Scorching temperatures are impeding milk production and withering the crops that cattle eat — dynamics that could contribute to shortages or price increases.

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