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Second Human Case of Bird Flu Reported in the United States

A dairy cattle worker in Texas has become the second person in the United States to test positive for H5N1 avian influenza, also known as bird flu, as reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The individual’s sole symptom was a particular type of eye redness commonly associated with conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye, and is presently recovering under treatment with antiviral medication to prevent severe influenza. They have been advised to self-isolate.

Despite the emergence of this new human case of bird flu, the CDC emphasized that the risk of infection remains low. The only other confirmed case in the country occurred in Colorado in 2022 when a poultry worker tested positive for bird flu, according to the CDC. Dr. Richard Webby, Director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Studies on the Ecology of Influenza in Animals and Birds, reiterated the rarity of human infection with this virus, stressing that both cases in the U.S. involved individuals with close contact with infected animals through their occupational duties.

Dr. Webby further emphasized that while H5N1 bird flu is prevalent among wild birds both domestically and internationally, the risk to the general population remains minimal. The CDC has been actively monitoring individuals exposed to bird flu since its detection among wild birds and poultry in 2021. Human cases of bird flu can manifest with mild symptoms such as eye infections and respiratory issues, although severe complications such as pneumonia have also been reported, particularly outside the United States.

Dr. William Schaffner, Professor of Preventive Medicine and Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, underscored the efficacy of surveillance efforts in identifying such cases, attributing the increased detection to enhanced surveillance methods. He reiterated the rarity of bird flu infections due to the virus’s limited ability to transmit between humans. Dr. Schaffner emphasized that current diagnostic tests and antiviral medications remain effective in diagnosing and treating these uncommon infections.

To further mitigate the already low risk of bird flu transmission, the CDC recommends avoiding exposure to sick or dead animals, as well as refraining from consuming raw or undercooked animal products potentially contaminated by birds or animals. Commercially available milk is considered safe as it is pasteurized.

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