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Concerns Spread



Angst about the spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza beyond poultry has spread along with the news that three people have now become infected. That is three people out of 3.3 million Americans. So, we need to keep this in perspective.


But this is no longer a bird flu virus that sickens poultry and resulted in culling millions of poultry.


RELATED: Through May 2024, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported confirmed cases of H5N1 virus in nine states infecting 67 dairy herds. Find the latest information from the CDC regarding infected dairy herds here.


Lactating dairy cattle that get infected suffer decreased milk production but typically recover. That is the positive news. This is more troubling: Infected cattle could also be infecting the farm workers who are near them.


All three infected people, at least the people who have been confirmed to be infected, have been near infected dairy cattle. The third infected person, a dairy worker in Michigan, reported symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that are different from the first two infected people. And this time, the symptoms are respiratory.


On May 30th, the CDC reported this about the third confirmed case, “As with the previous two cases (one in Texas, one in Michigan), the person is a dairy farm worker with exposure to infected cows, making this another instance of probable cow-to-person spread. This is the first human case of H5 in the United States to report more typical symptoms of acute respiratory illness associated with influenza virus infection, including A(H5N1) viruses.”



The CDC advisory included these recommendations to protect dairy workers:


  • People should wear recommended personal protective equipment when interacting with infected or potentially infected animals and monitor their health for 10 days after their most recent exposure. Learn more about CDC’s recommendations for worker protection and use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

  • People should avoid close, long, or unprotected exposures to sick or dead animals, including wild birds, poultry, other domesticated birds, and other wild or domesticated animals (including cows).

  • 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 latest infected dairy worker’s respiratory symptoms increase the risk of the person spreading it to others. That heightens concerns from some professionals in the medical community.


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