23 May 2024, 09:28

US reports 2nd human case of bird flu tied to dairy cow outbreak

WASHINGTON, May 23, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - A second case of bird flu has been
found in a human, US health authorities announced Wednesday, less then two
months after the first one as an outbreak of the disease circulates widely
among dairy cows.

Both individuals infected with the virus called H5N1 -- the first in Texas,
the second in Michigan -- were dairy farm workers who suffered only minor
symptoms and have recovered, according to authorities.

Despite the second infection, the US Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention said its risk assessment for the general public remained "low,"
but it did suggest it expects more cases.

Given the high levels of the virus "in raw milk from infected cows, and the
extent of the spread of this virus in dairy cows, similar additional human
cases could be identified," the CDC said.

However, "sporadic human infections with no ongoing spread will not change
the CDC risk assessment for the US general public, which CDC considers to be

The latest case in Michigan was detected in "a worker on a dairy farm where
H5N1 virus has been identified in cows," the agency said.

According to Michigan Health and Human Services, the worker had only mild
symptoms and has recovered.

Two specimens were collected from the worker -- one from the nose and the
other from the eye -- with only the eye specimen testing positive.

Additionally, "similar to the Texas case, the patient only reported eye
symptoms," the CDC said.

- Chickens, cows, humans -

As of Wednesday a total of 52 US herds were infected with bird flu across
nine of the 50 states.

The US Department of Agriculture said it has identified spread between cows
within the same herd and between dairies associated with cattle movements.

When treated, sick cows can recover "with little to no associated mortality,"
the department said in a statement in late April.

It added: "It is important to remember that thus far, we have not found
changes to the virus that would make it more transmissible to humans and
between people."

The USDA has made financial aid available to help affected farms, for example
by providing protective equipment for their employees.

According to the CDC, "people with close or prolonged, unprotected exposures
to infected birds or other animals (including livestock)... are at greater
risk of infection."

Though the current H5N1 strain has killed millions of poultry during the
present wave, affected cows have not fallen severely sick.

Cows and goats joined the list of victims in March, surprising experts
because the animals were not thought to be susceptible to this type of

Virus fragments meanwhile have been found in pasteurized milk, but health
authorities say milk sold in US stores is safe because pasteurization
effectively kills the disease.

There is no evidence of human-to-human transmission at present but health
officials fear that if the virus were to eventually spread widely it could
mutate into a form that could pass between humans.

Avian influenza A(H5N1) first emerged in 1996 but since 2020, the number of
outbreaks in birds has grown exponentially, alongside an increase in the
number of infected mammals.


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