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Dairy Farm Worker’s Bird Flu Case Described By Doctors

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Bird Flu

(CTN News) – According to Texas doctors, the only known human case of H5N1 Bird Flu is linked to the ongoing outbreak in dairy cows.

There are only a few cases of bird flu in humans, but about half of them have proved fatal over the past few years, raising scientists’ concerns about an easy-to-transmit human bird flu.

After antibiotic treatment, the unidentified Texas man’s H5N1 disease turned into a case of conjunctivitis, an inflammation of the conjunctiva.

Team members led by Dr. Timothy Uyeki of the CDC and Dr. Scott Milton of the Texas Department of State Health Services described the case in a New England Journal of Medicine report published May 3.

According to them, an adult dairy farm worker developed redness and discomfort in his right eye in late March 2024.

Their examination revealed a case of conjunctivitis with bloodshot, painful eyes that did not affect the man’s vision.

According to the team, he wasn’t experiencing any respiratory symptoms, had clear lungs, and had a normal blood-oxygen level. His “vital signs” were unremarkable other than that.

However, “the worker reported no contact with sick or dead wild birds, poultry, or other animals but was exposed directly and closely to dairy cows that seemed to be well and sick cows that showed the same signs of illness as cows at other dairy farms in the same area of northern Texas with confirmed HPAI A(H5N1) virus infection,” said researchers. When working with cows, the worker wore gloves, but did not wear eye or respiratory protection.

It was determined that he had the Bird Flu after swabs were taken from his eyes and nasal passages. Testing narrowed down the diagnosis to H5N1.

A standard antiviral medication, oseltamivir, was given to the man twice daily for five days, and he was instructed to isolate at home. His neighbors were also given the antiviral to protect them against H5N1.

Over the next few days, the worker reported resolution of conjunctivitis without respiratory symptoms, and household contacts remained healthy.

Laboratory analysis of the viral strain implicated in the infection revealed the PB2 E627K mutation. In previous studies, the researchers noted that this mutation is associated with the adaptation of HPAI A(H5N1) viruses to mammalian hosts.

The man’s H5N1 strain did not exhibit any mutations that would impair the effectiveness of standard antivirals recommended for treating influenza.

Scientists developing avian influenza vaccines should they need them to have good news: The vaccine-sensitive components of the strain of H5N1 that infected the dairy worker are “closely related” to viruses already being studied by researchers developing bird flu vaccines.

The influenza A(H5N1) viruses have pandemic potential, so manufacturers can make vaccines from them if necessary, according to the researchers.

There are 36 herds across nine states that have been infected with bird flu due to an outbreak of bird flu among U.S. dairy cows. The federal government has found evidence of inactive DNA “fragments” of H5N1 in about one in 20 samples of milk, but no live virus — it is believed that pasteurization kills the virus. Virus tests on ground beef have also come back negative.


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Alishba Waris is an independent journalist working for CTN News. She brings a wealth of experience and a keen eye for detail to her reporting. With a knack for uncovering the truth, Waris isn't afraid to ask tough questions and hold those in power accountable. Her writing is clear, concise, and cuts through the noise, delivering the facts readers need to stay informed. Waris's dedication to ethical journalism shines through in her hard-hitting yet fair coverage of important issues.

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