Texas dairy worker contracts bird flu

It’s the second known U.S. case of avian influenza affecting people

A person in Texas has contracted avian flu after being in contact with infected dairy cattle in the state. The person, whose only symptom is reported to be eye redness, is the second known case of a human contracting the H5N1 virus in the U.S.

Since 2022, the World Health Organization cases has reported 15 cases in Asia, including eight deaths. The Centers for Disease Control still consider the risk to people to be low, but people in close or prolonged exposure to infected animals are at greater risk. The previous case involved a person exposed to infected poultry in Colorado in 2022.

“Spread of earlier H5N1 viruses from one infected person to a close contact in the past have happened very rarely and have not led to sustained person-to-person spread,” the CDC said.

The H5N1 strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza has affected populations of wild birds around the world, resulting in the deaths of dozens of highly endangered California condors and hundreds of bald eagles and devastating some waterfowl populations. It has also resulted in the destruction of millions of farmed chickens and turkeys in an effort to contain the virus.

A variety of mammals, including seals, sea lions, foxes and other carnivores believed to have consumed infected birds, have also been infected.

The Texas case occurred after the discovery of the virus for the first time in the U.S. among dairy cows in Texas and Kansas. The virus was found in a goat last month in Minnesota, marking the first occurrence in livestock in the U.S.

Header Image: Dairy farms and other agricultural operations spread across the Texas landscape. Credit: Ken Lund