Apr 01, 2024

First person diagnosed with bird flu after being in contact with cows

Posted Apr 01, 2024 7:30 PM
Photo USDA
Photo USDA

KANSAS CITY(AP) — A person in Texas has been diagnosed with bird flu, an infection tied to the recent discovery of the virus in dairy cows, health officials said Monday.

The patient is being treated with an antiviral drug and their only reported symptom was eye redness, Texas health officials said. Health officials say the person had been in contact with cows presumed to be infected, and the risk to the public remains low.

Last week, dairy cows in Kansas and Texas were reported to be infected with bird flu — and federal agriculture officials later confirmed infections in a Michigan dairy herd that had recently received cows from Texas.

Since 2020, the bird flu virus has been spreading among more animal species – including dogs, cats, skunks, bears and even seals and porpoises – in scores of countries. However, the detection is U.S. livestock is an “unexpected and problematic twist,” said Dr. Ali Khan, a former CDC outbreak investigator who is now dean of the University of Nebraska’s public health college.

This bird flu was first identified as a threat to people during a 1997 outbreak in Hong Kong. More than 460 people have died in the past two decades from bird flu infections, according to the World Health Organization.

The vast majority of infected people got it directly from birds, but scientists have been on guard for any sign of spread among people. Their biggest concern is that the virus could mutate to spread easily among humans, something that hasn’t happened yet.

It’s only the second time a person in the United States has been diagnosed with what’s known as Type A H5N1 virus. In 2022, a prison inmate in a work program picked it up while killing infected birds at a poultry farm in Montrose County, Colorado. His only symptom was fatigue, and he recovered.

Texas officials didn’t identify the newly infected person, nor release any details about what brought them in contact with the cows.