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Third H5N1 Bird Flu Case Emerges in U.S. Dairy Worker

Third H5N1 case in a U.S. Dairy Worker

United States: A third case of H5N1 avian flu was identified in a dairy worker amid a continuing outbreak of the disease in dairy cows, according to a report released by US health officials on Thursday.

Previous Cases and Current Status

The two prior human cases—the first in Texas and the second in Michigan, where this most recent case also happened—only featured a transient eye pain associated with conjunctivitis, or “pink eye.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated in a health alert that this third case is the first to have more conventional respiratory symptoms.

Transmission and Risk

“The patient reported upper respiratory tract symptoms including cough without fever, and eye discomfort with watery discharge,” according to the FDA. “The patient was given antiviral treatment with oseltamivir, is isolating at home and their symptoms are resolving.”

The three U.S. workers contracted H5N1 after having lengthy contact with dairy cows; however, the virus is not easily transmitted between humans at this time. According to the CDC, this case represents “another instance of probable cow-to-person spread.”

Preventive Measures

“Given the extent of the spread of this virus in dairy cows, additional human cases in people with higher risk exposures would not be surprising,” the CDC stated.

There has been “no sign of unusual influenza activity in people, including no increase in emergency room visits for influenza and no increase in laboratory detection of human influenza cases,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is closely monitoring influenza activity in the states affected by the H5N1 outbreak.



Consequently, “the risk to the general public’s members who do not have exposure to infected animals still remains low, the agency stressed.

In addition to the worker’s treatment and isolation, the CDC reported that the patient’s “household contacts have not developed symptoms, are being monitored for illness, and have been offered oseltamivir.”

It is feared that a mutation could occur that would make H5N1 highly contagious among humans and other members of the mammalian species.

As of right now, the risk appears to be restricted to individuals who have had extended contact with virus-infected animals, such as dairy workers.

Monitoring and Treatment

When interacting with infected or potentially infected animals, the CDC advises these individuals to “wear recommended personal protective equipment and monitor their health for 10 days after their most recent exposure.”

“People should also avoid unprotected exposures to animal poop, bedding [litter], unpasteurized [“raw”] milk or materials that have been touched by, or close to, birds or other animals with suspected or confirmed A[H5N1] virus,” the CDC stated.

Raw milk is a special concern, because pasteurization kills off the H5N1 virus. One study released last week found high levels of avian flu virus in raw milk, even after refrigeration.

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