Second Case of Bird Flu in Humans Confirmed in the US

On Monday, the second case in history of bird flu infecting a human in the U.S. was confirmed to happen in Texas, but federal authorities are trying to downplay the larger public health risk this presents, even though the bird flu is “highly pathogenic.”

The man who was infected was exposed to bird flu as he was working on a dairy farm, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. The man only displayed minor symptoms of the disease, though he has already received treatment for it.

In a statement released Monday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, officials said:

“This infection does not change the H5N1 bird flu human health risk assessment for the U.S. general public, which CDC considers to be low.”

People who have “close or prolonged unprotected exposures to infected birds or other animals (including livestock), or to environments contaminated by infected birds or other animals” are indeed at much greater risk of being infected, the CDC said.

The United States Department of Agriculture has confirmed bird flu infections of herds of dairy cattle in four states — New Mexico, Michigan, Kansas and Texas. In addition, results from Idaho are “presumed” to be positive as well.

The CDC said that the movement of cattle herds across state lines has accounted for the bird flu spread, especially from the state of Texas. Some states, including Nebraska, have put temporary restrictions on the import of cattle because of concerns over the bird flu spreading.

Bird flu, sometimes referred to as avian influenza or H5N1, has infected billions of dollars of poultry all around the world. At the same time, large infections of cattle are rare, as are any infections of humans.

The modern history of bird flu began in 1996 in China. There, it spread first in Hong Kong from geese to humans. Over two months that year, it was responsible for killing six of the 18 total people who were infected, the CDC reported.

The outbreak in Hong Kong was the first time that proved that bird flu could transmit to humans directly from birds.

Most of the human infections from bird flu have come from people who have had direct, prolonged contact with infected birds or who have consumed infected birds, according to the CDC.

Even still, it’s been very sporadic that humans have contracted the disease, and when they do, they have been isolated cases. What public health experts fear the most is a scenario where the virus passes from one human to another human. That has yet to happen yet, though.

The National Institute of Health conducted a study that found that more than half of all people who were infected by bird flu between 2003 and 2016 died as a result of the infection.

The recent case of a dairy worker in Texas is the second human infection recorded in the U.S., though it’s the first who contracted the disease from cattle.

The first case happened in 2022, when a prisoner in Colorado who was in a work program at a poultry facility contracted bird flu after they killed birds that were infected.