What to know about the latest bird flu outbreak in the US| Trending Viral hub

A poultry facility in Michigan and an egg producer in Texas reported outbreaks of bird flu this week. The latest developments on the virus also include infected dairy cows and the first known case of a human contracting bird flu from a mammal.

Although health officials say the risk to the public remains low, there is growing concern, stemming in part from news that the largest producer of fresh eggs in the United States reported an outbreak.

Below are some key things you should know about the disease.

Dr. Mandy Cohen, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the agency is taking bird flu seriously, but noted that the virus has already been well studied.

“The fact that it’s now in livestock definitely raises our level of concern,” Cohen said, noting that it means agricultural workers who work with livestock, and not just those who work with poultry, may need to take precautions.

The good news is that “it is not a new strain of the virus,” Cohen added. “We know this and we’ve been studying it and, frankly, we’ve been preparing for bird flu for 20 years.”

Some flu viruses mainly affect people, but others occur mainly in animals. Avian viruses spread naturally in wild waterfowl such as ducks and geese, and then to chickens and other domesticated poultry.

The bird flu virus that is attracting attention today, type A H5N1, was first identified in 1959. Like other viruses, it has evolved over time and generated newer versions of itself.

Since 2020, the virus has been spreading among more animal species (including dogs, cats, skunks, bears, and even seals and porpoises) in dozens of countries.

In the United States, this version of bird flu has been detected in wild birds in every state, as well as in commercial poultry operations and backyard flocks. Across the country, tens of millions of chickens have died from the virus or been culled to prevent outbreaks from spreading.

Last week, US officials said it had been found in livestock. As of Tuesday, it had been discovered in dairy herds in five states (Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, New Mexico and Texas), according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

This bird flu was first identified as a threat to people during an outbreak in 1997 in Hong Kong. Over the past two decades, nearly 900 people have been diagnosed with bird flu worldwide and more than 460 have died, according to the World Health Organization.

There have only been two cases in the United States and neither was fatal.

In 2022, an inmate in a work program became infected while killing infected birds at a poultry farm in Montrose County, Colorado. His only symptom was fatigue and he recovered.

This week, Texas health officials announced that a person who had been in contact with cows had been diagnosed with bird flu. The only symptom reported of her was redness of the eyes.

Symptoms are similar to other flus, including cough, body aches, and fever. Some people have no noticeable symptoms, but others develop severe, life-threatening pneumonia.

The vast majority of infected people contracted it directly from birds, but scientists are watching for any signs of spread between people.

There have been some cases where that apparently happened; the most recent in 2007 in Asia. In each group, it spread within families from a sick person in the home.

US health officials have emphasized that the current risk to public health is low and that there are no signs that bird flu is spreading from person to person.


Associated Press reporters Jonathan Poet in Philadelphia and Mike Stobbe and video journalist Sharon Johnson in Atlanta contributed to this report.

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