What to know about the latest bird flu outbreak in the US – NBC Chicago

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

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

Here are some key things to know about the disease.

What do the experts say?

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

“The fact that this is the case in livestock definitely increases our level of concern,” Cohen said, noting that it means farmworkers who work with livestock — and not just those who work with birds — may have to -be take precautions.

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

What is bird flu?

Some flu viruses primarily affect humans, but others occur primarily in animals. Avian viruses spread naturally among wild waterfowl such as ducks and geese, and then among chickens and other domestic poultry.

The avian influenza virus that is attracting attention today, type A H5N1, was first identified in 1959. Like other viruses, it has evolved over time, spawning new versions of itself. -even.

Since 2020, the virus has spread among more animal species – including dogs, cats, skunks, bears and even seals and porpoises – in many countries.

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

Last week, US authorities 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 U.S. Department of Agriculture.

How often do people get bird flu?

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

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

In 2022, an inmate in a work program caught it while killing infected birds on 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 contact with cows had been diagnosed with bird flu. Their only reported symptom was redness of the eyes.

Avian influenza or bird flu is a disease that spreads naturally among wild aquatic birds around the world, as well as among domestic poultry and other species of birds and animals.

What are the symptoms of bird flu?

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

Can this spread between people?

The vast majority of those infected contracted it directly from birds, but scientists are wary of any signs of spread among humans.

There have been a few cases where this has apparently happened – most recently in 2007 in Asia. In every household, the disease spread within families from a sick person present in the home.

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

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

NBC Chicago

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