First human US case of bird flu strain detected in Colorado, CDC says health risk low

Associated Press / Irwin Fedriansyiah

A man in Colorado has tested positive for the H5N1 bird flu virus, becoming the first person in the U.S. to have a confirmed human case of bird flu stemming from the current outbreak that has impacted commercial and backyard birds.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the man who tested positive for bird flu had direct exposure to poultry, as he was involved in culling poultry presumed to have the virus. The only symptom he reported having was some fatigue for a few days before recovering.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) said in a statement that the man who tested positive was under 40, worked at a farm in Montrose County and was largely asymptomatic. The agency noted that there are currently no known cases of this H5 virus spreading among people.

The patient is currently in isolation and was treated with the influenza antiviral drug oseltamivir, said the CDC. Other people who also worked at the Colorado culling operation have so far tested negative, though they are being retested out of an abundance of caution.

Rachel Herlihy, state epidemiologist for the CDPHE, said, “We want to reassure Coloradans that the risk to them is low.”

The CDC stressed that this recent case does not change the low risk assessment of bird flu for the general public. However, the agency stressed that people who have job-related or recreational exposure to infected birds have a higher risk of contracting the virus. Overall, H5N1 infections among people remain rare.

“This one H5-positive human case does not change the human health risk assessment. CDC will continue to watch this situation closely for signs that the risk to human health has changed,” said the agency.

The H5N1 virus has so far been detected in 34 U.S. states among wild birds as well as commercial and backyard poultry. The case in Colorado is the second human case reported around the world stemming from the specific H5 strain, with the first detected case occurring in the U.K. in December in an individual who was asymptomatic.

While over 880 cases of the H5N1 virus have been reported among humans since 2003, the CDC noted that the strain that was detected in Colorado differs from previous strains.

For consumers, following proper cooking methods for poultry meat and eggs should offer protection against the H5 virus, according to the agency. This includes cooking poultry meat and eggs to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, which kills the virus.

Tags bird flu bird flu CDC CDC Colorado
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