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Texas Reports First Case Of Avian Flu In Human, Reportedly From Infected Dairy Cattle

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The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) reported the state’s first human case of “novel avian influenza A(H5N1).”

“The patient became ill following contact with dairy cows presumed to be infected with avian influenza. The patient’s primary symptom was conjunctivitis,” the Texas DSHS said in a health alert.

“This is the second case of avian influenza A(H5N1) identified in a person in the United States and is believed to be associated with the recent detections of avian influenza A(H5N1) in dairy cows announced by the Texas Animal Health Commission,” the alert continued.

“A Texas dairy worker has tested positive for the avian flu, marking the first identified human case of an illness in the U.S. that has sickened cattle across several states over the past few weeks. The infection, only the second human case of H5N1 ever recorded in the country, is worrying public health experts who for decades have cautioned that avian flu could pose a serious threat,” Dr. Kat Lindley wrote, citing POLITICO.

“The case is the only one state and federal officials have identified, and there is no evidence that it is being spread among humans. The illness is mild and the worker is expected to recover, said two people familiar with the matter, who were granted anonymity because the information has not yet been made public. While there have been confirmed avian flu fatalities in other parts of the world, the U.S. has only ever recorded a handful of mild cases, according to the CDC,” she continued.

The Texas Tribune reports:

State officials recommend that clinicians should “consider the possibility” of infection in people who have symptoms and a potential risk for exposure, including those who have had close contact with someone infected, contact with affected animals, or contact with unpasteurized milk from dairy farms with infections.

Symptoms can include a fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches, fatigue, eye redness, shortness of breath, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, or seizures. The illness can range from mild to severe, and health care providers who come across someone who may have the virus should “immediately consult their local health department,” according to the alert.

Because eye redness has been observed in these infections before, health care providers like optometrists and ophthalmologists “should be aware of the potential of individuals presenting with conjunctivitis who have had exposure to affected animals,” according to the alert.

The strain, novel avian influenza A(H5N1), started infecting dairy cattle in the Panhandle last week, in another blow to the Texas cattle industry after thousands were lost in historic Texas wildfires. Similar outbreaks were reported at dairies in Kansas and New Mexico.

“In March 2024, samples were collected and tested for influenza from several animals in Texas and Kansas. These animals, including wild birds, cats, and dairy cows, were tested because they exhibited signs of illness. Some of the animals tested positive for influenza. Further testing of these samples indicated the presence of avian influenza A(H5N1). This is the first time avian influenza A(H5N1) has been detected in cattle in the United States. DSHS, including regional staff have been working with other state and federal health agencies to investigate suspect cases of avian influenza A(H5N1) in both humans and animals,” Texas DSHS said.

“A new version of bird flu that can spread among dairy cattle and then to people? Sorry CDC, you have no credibility. Bureaucrats and corporations will probably use this to advance an agenda against raw milk, independent farmers, and backyard chickens,” Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) said.

Per ABC News:

The infected individual out of Texas worked directly with sick cattle and reported eye redness as their only symptom, according to the CDC. They are now recovering after isolating from others and being treated with an antiviral drug for flu.

“For the general public, this event serves as a reminder of the effectiveness of our disease surveillance systems and the ongoing need for vigilance,” Brownstein added.

There are no concerns around the safety of the commercial milk supply at this time, according to the Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dairies need to destroy milk from sick cows and pasteurization kills flu viruses.

People should avoid exposing themselves to sick or dead animals, as well as avoid eating foods such as unpasteurized milk or raw cheeses from sick animals, according to the CDC.

“It’s vital that the public stays informed, follows CDC guidelines, and takes standard precautions, particularly those working closely with animals,” Brownstein said.

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