Human Tests Positive for Avian Flu in Texas

A person in Texas tested positive for avian flu, also known as bird flu, after contact with dairy cows presumed to be infected.

This is the second case of avian influenza A(H5N1) in a person in the United States and is believed to be associated with the recent detections of H5N1 in dairy cows, Texas health officials say.

The patient reported conjunctivitis (pink eye) as their only symptom and is now being treated with an antiviral drug for flu while in isolation.

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Nevertheless, the risk of avian flu for the U.S. general public remains low, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

Monica Gandhi, M.D., MPH., an infectious disease doctor, says it is good to stay vigilant about H5N1 avian flu in birds and other mammals.

However, if there is no efficient human-to-human transmission, avian flu won’t turn pandemic, Gandhi wrote on X, a social network.

Epidemiologists Katelyn Jetelina and Caitlin Rivers wrote on Your Local Epidemiologist that currently, the avian flu risk to the average person is close to nil unless they are working with wild animals, birds, or cows.

What are the symptoms of avian flu?

People with close or prolonged, unprotected exposures to infected birds or other animals, including livestock, are at greater risk of infection, according to the CDC.

Close contact is defined as a person being within six feet of a confirmed or probable avian flu case for a prolonged period of time. Those who had direct contact with infectious secretions are also at an elevated risk.

The symptoms of avian flu may include the following:

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  • Headaches
  • Fever of 100°F (37.8°C) or
  • Feeling feverish or chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Fatigue
  • Eye redness (conjunctivitis)
  • Difficulty breathing/shortness of breath
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures

Avian flu illness in humans has ranged from mild to severe. Those with severe illnesses experienced sudden pneumonia leading to respiratory failure, acute respiratory distress syndrome, septic shock, and death.

How is avian flu treated?

The first U.S. human case of avian flu was reported in 2022 in Colorado. The infection occurred in a person who was involved in the culling of poultry with presumptive H5N1 bird flu. The patient who reported fatigue lasting for a few days as their only symptom has since recovered.

People with suspected or confirmed avian flu infection should start antiviral treatment with oseltamivir as soon as possible.

How do I avoid avian flu?

Avian flu is a disease caused by infection with avian influenza Type A viruses. These viruses naturally spread among wild aquatic birds and can infect domestic poultry and other bird and animal species.

Despite sporadic human infections, avian flu viruses do not normally infect humans. The best way for the general population to prevent infections is to avoid sources of exposure:

  • Avoid direct contact with wild birds whenever possible.
  • Avoid unprotected contact with domestic birds that look sick or have died.
  • Do not touch surfaces that may be contaminated with saliva, mucous, or feces from birds, both wild and domestic.
  • If you work with animals, use full personal protective equipment.

For people who may have exposure to sick birds, the CDC recommends getting a seasonal flu vaccine, ideally two weeks before their potential exposure.

Although the seasonal flu vaccine will not prevent avian flu infection, it can reduce the risk of getting sick with human and bird flu viruses at the same time.
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Can I get avian flu from food?

Poultry in the U.S. is regularly monitored for bird flu, meaning sick birds must be culled, and their animal products should not be sold.

People can only get sick if they eat uncooked or undercooked poultry. Cooking poultry products, including eggs, to an internal temperature of 165˚F (74°C) kills bacteria and viruses, including those causing avian flu.

Pasteurization kills infectious viruses in contaminated milk; however, you may get infected if you ingest unpasteurized milk from ill animals.

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