Third Case of Bird Flu in Humans Detected in the U.S. Amidst Dairy Cattle Outbreak

 May 30, 2024

The United States has identified a new human infection of bird flu, marking it the third case in the ongoing outbreak originating from dairy cattle.

US officials have reported the third human case of bird flu in the current outbreak, which is linked to dairy cattle in Michigan.

According to Breitbart News, a Michigan farm worker has contracted the virus, showing more severe flu-like symptoms compared to previous cases.

The worker, employed on a Michigan dairy farm, became ill, displaying symptoms such as cough, eye discomfort, and watery discharge, but notably, no fever was reported. This case follows previous ones reported in Texas and another in Michigan earlier.

The spread of this virus, primarily known to affect birds, has recently been observed in over 50 animal species, including dairy cattle, alerting health professionals and authorities to its zoonotic potential—its ability to transfer from animals to humans.

Increase in Bird Flu Symptoms in Recent Michigan Case

Unlike the earlier individuals affected, the recent Michigan farmworker showed pronounced respiratory symptoms, indicating an escalation of the infection. The worker received the antiviral medication oseltamivir and was advised isolation at home, where their condition improved post-treatment.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that these incidences had been transmitted from animals to humans, not human-to-human. As part of its surveillance, the CDC continues to stress that the overall risk to the general public remains low, provided there is no direct contact with infected animals.

Proactive monitoring by Michigan health authorities led to the identification of this recent case. Despite this being the third instance, the CDC expressed that finding another case was foreseeable given the ongoing rigorous testing efforts among farmworkers in the area.

According to the CDC:

The risk to members of the general public who do not have exposure to infected animals remains low. It added it was the first case to report more typical symptoms of acute respiratory illness associated with influenza virus infection.

Concerns Over Animal Feeding Practices and Disease Spread

Further investigation into the cause of the outbreak has reignited concerns about specific animal husbandry practices, such as the lawful feeding of chicken waste to cattle, which may facilitate the transmission of the bird flu virus among animal populations. Most cases have been linked back to wild birds, identified as the primary carriers of the virus spreading to cattle herds.

Moreover, recent studies have suggested that the bird flu virus can survive in raw milk, posing a risk if consumed unpasteurized. However, the virus is neutralized through pasteurization, mitigating any risk from commercial dairy products.

In addition to modifying feeding practices, the CDC recommends stringent use of personal protective equipment (PPE) for individuals working closely with potentially infected animals. Unfortunately, it was noted that the affected Michigan farmworker was not using the recommended PPE at the time of exposure.

Enhanced Prevention Measures Encouraged

The CDC advocates for increased preventive measures, including avoiding direct contact with sick or dead animals and their waste and refraining from consuming unpasteurized milk. Additional guidelines to curb the spread include enhanced sanitary procedures on farms and heightened protection for agricultural workers. The situation has also prompted authorities to initiate broader testing on other animal species; recently, farm-raised alpacas in Idaho were identified as new carriers of the disease.

About Victor Winston

Victor is a freelance writer and researcher who focuses on national politics, geopolitics, and economics.

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