A man in Colorado has tested positive for an H5 bird flu virus, state officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday, marking the first recorded human infection in the U.S. of the highly contagious virus that is ripping through commercial flocks and wild birds, but that experts say poses little threat to humans.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) said the man is incarcerated at a state correctional facility and was exposed to infected poultry while working at a commercial farm in Montrose County.
The man tested positive for an avian influenza A(H5) virus earlier this week and the CDC confirmed the result on Wednesday, the CDPHE said, though repeat testing was negative for influenza.
It’s possible the person may not have actually been infected with the virus, the CDPHE noted, suggesting the virus may have been present in his nose due to close contact with infected poultry but did not cause an infection.
The man—described as younger than 40, “largely asymptomatic” and reporting only fatigue—is now isolating and taking the antiviral drug oseltamivir, also known as tamiflu, the CDPHE said.
No other cases have been confirmed in humans in Colorado or the U.S., the CDPHE said.
“We want to reassure Coloradans that the risk to them is low,” said Dr. Rachel Herlihy, a state epidemiologist at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
It is only the second human infection caused by this particular version of the H5N1 avian flu to be recorded around the world, the first being an elderly British man who lived with a number of ducks inside his home in December.
The H5N1 influenza is a type of flu virus that primarily infects birds, though it can infect humans. It can be lethal and highly contagious and is devastating to both wild and commercial bird populations. Outbreaks across Europe and the U.S. mean millions of birds have already been culled to stop the spread and health officials have warned people to avoid contact with birds that appear sick or are dead. Many bird owners, such as zoos, have chosen to relocate them inside to reduce the risk of exposure from wild birds.
33 million. That’s the number of domestic birds the latest outbreak of bird flu in the U.S. has affected, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. It has been confirmed in 29 states, the agency said.
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