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Rare human case of bird flu contracted in Texas following contact with dairy cattle

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A rare human case of bird flu has been reported in Texas, after a person came into contact with livestock suspected of being infected. The announcement comes days after federal agencies said the virus had spread to dairy cattle in several states, including Texas.

The Texas Department of State Health Services said the only symptom the patient experienced was eye inflammation. The person, who remains anonymous, was tested late last week and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the results over the weekend. The person is now being treated with oseltamivir, an antiviral drug that the Mayo Clinic says can be used to treat influenza A and B, as well as swine flu.

Human cases of avian flu, also known as H5N1, are known to produce a range of symptoms, from mild such as eye infection and respiratory symptoms, to more severe, such as pneumonia and death, researchers said. Texas officials.

The CDC said it was only the second time someone in the United States had contracted bird flu, which typically infects wild birds but can spread to domestic species. It killed millions of birds around the world in its latest outbreak and has also spread to other mammal populations, killing sea lions, seals and even a polar bear.

Last week, federal agencies announced that dairy cattle are the latest group of animals to contract a strain of the virus. So far, cattle in Texas, Kansas, and Michigan are believed to be affected, marking the first time dairy cattle in the United States have encountered this particular infection.

Although it has spread to at least one person, the Texas Department of Health said it remains “extremely rare” for bird flu to spread from person to person.

“Initial tests show that the virus has not changed in a way that makes it more likely to spread between humans,” the department said. “DSHS is providing guidance to affected dairies on how to minimize worker exposure and how people who work with affected cattle can monitor for flu-like symptoms and get tested.”

The last time a person in the United States contracted bird flu was in Colorado in 2022. This person was involved in the slaughter of suspected infected poultry and later reported feeling tired. According to the CDC, this person recovered after being isolated and treated with oseltamivir.

“Human infections can occur when enough virus gets into a person’s eyes, nose, or mouth, or is inhaled,” the CDC said at the time. “People who have close or prolonged unprotected contact (not wearing respiratory or eye protection) with infected birds or places that diseased birds or their mucous membranes, saliva or droppings have touched may be at greater risk of “infection with the H5N1 virus.”

What are the human symptoms of bird flu?

According to a health alert sent to clinicians, the signs and symptoms of avian flu in humans are similar to those of a typical flu. They include a fever of at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit, or feeling feverish, as well as chills, cough, sore throat, runny nose, headache, fatigue, difficulty breathing, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and convulsions. What most distinguishes it from seasonal flu is the redness of the eyes, also known as conjunctivitis.

“For this reason, health care providers, including optometrists and ophthalmologists, should be aware of the risk that people with conjunctivitis may have been exposed to affected animals,” the health alert states. “Serious cases of avian influenza A(H5N1) reported in humans include fulminant pneumonia leading to respiratory failure, acute respiratory distress syndrome, septic shock, and death.”

Authorities have stressed that the risk to the general public remains low and that practicing good hygiene can help prevent the spread of this and many other diseases.

“People can protect themselves against the flu by washing their hands often, covering their coughs and sneezes, not picking up dead birds and animals, and staying home if they are sick,” it says. health alert.

Because dairy cattle have been affected, authorities have also warned against drinking unpasteurized raw milk, which can make humans sick even if not infected with bird flu. Milk purchased in stores must be pasteurized and is safe to drink, officials said.

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