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Bird flu detected in person exposed to dairy cattle

CHICAGO — Texas and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday reported a case of avian influenza in a person who had contact with dairy cows presumed to be infected with the virus.

It was the second case of the H5N1 strain of avian influenza, commonly known as bird flu, identified in a person in the United States, following a 2022 case in Colorado, and comes as the virus is spreading to new mammals including dairy cattle for the first time.

The CDC said the infection does not change the risk assessment for the US general public from H5N1 bird flu, which it considers to be low. The Texas patient’s only symptom was eye inflammation, according to the state’s health department.

The US Agriculture Department (USDA) reported on March 25 that samples of milk collected from sick cattle in Kansas and Texas tested positive for avian flu, showing the wide reach of the virus that has been found in poultry flocks and mammals around the world.

USDA said last week the nation’s milk supply is safe as milk from sick cows is being diverted or destroyed so it does not enter the food supply. Pasteurization is required for milk entering interstate commerce, a process that kills bacteria and viruses such as flu, the USDA said.

On Monday, USDA said it did not see the need to cull dairy herds as infected cows were being isolated and reportedly recovering.

The Nebraska Department of Agriculture said it was monitoring the situation, after the virus was detected in dairy cattle in New Mexico, Michigan and Idaho, as well as top cattle state Texas and Kansas. Nebraska will require all breeding female dairy cattle to obtain a special permit prior to entry to protect the state’s herd, the department said.

This year, H5N1 was also found in a goat in Minnesota on a farm where poultry tested positive.

Avian flu has reached new corners of the globe in recent years, spread by wild birds. Since 2022, 82 million U.S. chickens, turkeys and other birds have been culled. The virus is fatal to poultry but has been less severe in mammals.

Chicago Mercantile Exchange live and feeder cattle futures fell on Monday on fears that bird flu in cattle could result in less demand for meat and dairy products. — Reuters

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