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A person in Texas is diagnosed with bird flu after coming into contact with cows

A person in Texas has been diagnosed with bird flu, an infection linked to the recent discovery of the virus in dairy cows, health officials said Monday.

The patient was treated with an antiviral medication and the only reported symptom was eye redness, Texas health officials said. Health officials say the person had contact with suspected infected cows and the risk to the public remains low.

Federal health officials say this is the world’s first known case of a person contracting this version of bird flu from a mammal.

However, there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission or that anyone was infected through milk or meat from farm animals, Dr. Nirav Shah, deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Genetic testing does not suggest that the virus suddenly spreads more easily or causes more severe illness, Shah said. And current antiviral drugs still appear to work, he added.

Last week, it was reported that dairy cows in Texas and Kansas were infected with bird flu — and federal agriculture officials later confirmed infections in a dairy herd in Michigan that had recently received cows from Texas. None of the hundreds of affected cows died, Shah said.

Since 2020, an avian flu virus has been spreading in numerous countries among other animal species – including dogs, cats, skunks, bears and even seals and porpoises.

However, the detection in US livestock is an “unexpected and problematic turn,” said Dr. Ali Khan, a former CDC outbreak investigator and now dean of the University of Nebraska College of Public Health.

This bird flu was first identified as a threat to humans during an outbreak in Hong Kong in 1997. According to the World Health Organization, more than 460 people have died from bird flu infections in the last two decades.

Most infected people got it directly from birds, but scientists have been watching for signs of spread among humans.

Texas officials did not identify the newly infected person or provide details about what led to their contact with the cows.

The CDC does not recommend testing for people who do not have symptoms. About a dozen people in Texas who had symptoms were tested in connection with the dairy cow infections, but only one person came back positive, Shah said.

It is only the second time a person in the United States has been diagnosed with the so-called Type A H5N1 virus. In 2022, a prison inmate contracted it as part of a work program while killing infected birds at a poultry farm in Montrose County, Colorado. His only symptom was fatigue and he recovered.

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