First Human Case of Avian Influenza in TX Confirmed

Closeup of steer
Closeup of steer | Image by Catherine Falls Commercial/Getty Images

State health officials announced on April 1 that the first case of human infection of the avian influenza A virus in Texas has been confirmed.

The Texas Department of State Health Services (TxDSHS) stated in a press release that an unnamed individual had become infected with the avian influenza A (H5N1) virus after coming in contact with dairy cattle. This is the case first linked to cattle exposure.

“The patient, who experienced eye inflammation as their only symptom, was tested for flu late last week with confirmatory testing performed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over the weekend,” read the announcement from TxDSHS. “The patient is being treated with the antiviral drug oseltamivir. The case does not change the risk for the general public, which remains low.”

The current condition of the infected person is currently unknown.

The Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) announced on March 26 that it had received confirmation of “highly pathogenic avian influenza” (HPAI) in cattle at two dairy farms in Texas and two in Kansas. The organization stated that the virus may have been introduced by wild birds in the area, as some dairy owners had reported finding dead birds on their properties.

The cows that were tested exhibited symptoms of “decreased lactation, low appetite, and other clinical signs,” according to TAHC.

However, officials maintain that there is no concern for commercial milk supplies, as dairies are required to dispose of milk harvested from sick cows. In addition, any milk sold in stores must be pasteurized, which is proven to inactivate bacteria and viruses.

DSHS is coordinating efforts with the TAHC, the CDC, and other entities to investigate the spread of the virus and with personnel at affected dairies to minimize exposures. The department also issued a health alert to the healthcare providers near affected dairies to watch for more potential infections.

As the name suggests, avian influenza type A viruses are pathogens typically only found in birds and do not normally infect humans. However, infections can occur through contact with infected birds. The first A(H5N1) human infection in the United States was reported on April 28, 2022, according to the CDC.

“Illnesses in humans from bird flu virus infections have ranged in severity from no symptoms or mild illness (e.g., eye infection, upper respiratory symptoms) to severe disease (e.g., pneumonia) that resulted in death,” read the CDC’s website. “Human infections with bird flu viruses have most often occurred after close or lengthy unprotected contact (i.e., not wearing gloves or respiratory protection or eye protection) with infected birds or places that sick birds or their saliva, mucous and feces have touched.”

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