Third US dairy worker infected with bird flu, second case in Michigan

Officials announced Thursday that a third U.S. dairy worker has been infected with bird flu, or H5N1. This is the second case in Michigan.

Federal officials said that unlike the first two U.S. cases — whose symptoms were limited to conjunctivitis or pink eye — this person showed more typical flu-like respiratory symptoms. None of the three cases are related to the other.

The risk to the general population is still considered low, federal officials said.

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However, the case underlines the importance of recommended precautions in people exposed to infected or potentially infected animals,” officials said in a written statement.

Officials said at a news conference Thursday that 40 people have been tested for H5N1 so far, and they have been actively monitoring more than 350 people — including 220 in Michigan.

They've also issued roughly 17,000 PCR tests for livestock — although that doesn't mean 17,000 individual cows have been tested, says Eric Deeble of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Some of these are pooled samples, so an individual test could “represent many more animals.”

He does not want to give an estimate of the number of infected cows.

The last dairy worker was exposed to H5N1-infected cows and reported flu symptoms to local health officials. The person complained of coughing and discomfort in the eyes with watery discharge. The employee had no fever. The patient received antiviral treatment, is currently in isolation at home and the symptoms are resolving.

No one else in the person's home has developed symptoms, although they are being monitored. In addition, no other employees at the same company have reported symptoms and all staff are being monitored.

They underlined that there is currently no evidence that bird flu is spread from person to person.

In March, federal officials reported that H5N1 had jumped from birds to dairy cattle. The virus has been found in 67 herds in nine states. There have been no known dairy cattle cases in California.

Earlier this week, Idaho reported that the virus had been found in a herd of llamas. And a chicken farm in Iowa became infected, forcing the culling of 4.2 million birds.

Federal officials said in April they believed the nation's milk supply was safe after H5N1 was found in supermarket milk. However, they recommend avoiding raw milk as it may contain high levels of active virus.

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