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Patient in Texas diagnosed with bird flu after contact with cows: health officials

Cows, test tube
Cows, test tube

A person in Texas has been diagnosed with a bird flu strain tied to a recent outbreak among dairy cows — becoming the second person ever in the US to contract the virus, federal and state officials said Monday.

The patient, who has not been publicly identified, suffered from eye inflammation and was tested for the bird flu last week, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirming the infection over the weekend.

Texas officials noted that the patient had been directly exposed to dairy cows presumed to be infected and insisted that the virus does not pose much risk to the general public.

The bird flu has recently been discovered in cows.
The bird flu has recently been discovered in cows.

The US Department of Agriculture also confirmed that there are no changes in the bird flu virus, Type A H5N1, that would make it more transmissible to humans.

“While cases among humans in direct contact with infected animals are possible, this indicates that the current risk to the public remains low,” the department said in a statement over the weekend.

The latest infection comes just a week after dairy cows in Texas and Kansas were reported to be infected with the virus.

Since then, herds in Michigan, Idaho and New Mexico have also tested positive for bird flu.

It’s the first time the disease has been found in dairy cattle, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. The virus has thrived more in mammals in recent years, the association added.

Health officials say the risks of bird flu to the public remain low. Getty Images
Health officials say the risks of bird flu to the public remain low. Getty Images

Despite the infections in the dairy industry, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller said  last week that “this outbreak is not currently expected to threaten our nation’s commercial dairy supply.”

Although rare in humans, people with close or prolonged exposures to infected animals or environments contaminated by them are at risk of infection.

The US saw its first human infection of this virus back in 2022 when a prison inmate in a labor program contracted the disease while killing infected birds at a poultry farm in Colorado.

The prisoner’s only symptom was fatigue, which he recovered from.

The bird flu was first flagged as a threat to humans in 1997 during an outbreak in Hong Kong, which saw 18 people infected, six of whom died, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The World Health Organization estimates that more than 460 people have died over the last two decades from bird flu infections.

With Post wires