U.S. Braces for New Wave of Bird Flu After CDC Finds Second Human Case in Texas

By: Stephanie Bontorin | Published: Apr 10, 2024

A common strain of avian flu has just been detected in dairy cows in the U.S

A statement has been released by Federal health and agriculture officials and the CDC warning consumers of the possible threat.

Texas Affected by the Illness

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has alerted the public to an alarming disease spreading in Texas. 

A man checks on cows eating in a row

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A person has been infected with a highly contagious strain of avian influenza, otherwise known as bird flu. The infected person is a farm worker on a dairy farm in Texas.

Second U.S. Citizen To Contract the Disease

The farm worker is only the second person to contract the illness in the United States. Currently, the patient is being quarantined and they have not experienced any extreme symptoms.

A man with small round glasses and short brown hair lays in a hospital bed

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The report was issued on Friday to alert the public of the risk. Currently, the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza A (H5N1) Virus can be spread to humans through infected birds or cattle.

Farmers Are Most at Risk

Since the disease is most commonly spread from animals to humans, farmers working directly with birds or cattle are at risk of contracting the disease.

A farmer wears a blue and red checkered shirt with a hat, brown pants, and boots with his hands on his hips looking out at an empty field with a large tractor

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The CDC has alerted farms all around the country to increase infection risk precautions to try and avoid any additional illnesses.

Symptoms of the Illness

The farm worker reported symptoms of conjunctivitis (pink eye) at the end of March. They later tested positive for the bird flu. No previous reports of people working with cows have been recorded.

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The patient did not require hospitalization and will be isolated until the illness is completely gone and can no longer be transmitted to any other humans.

The Other Positive Test Result

The first person in the United States to test positive for the bird flu was a man in Colorado in 2022.

A young woman wears full body PPE and a blue bandana while collecting eggs at a large scale chicken farm

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The patient allegedly came into contact with infected poultry. Thankfully, they did not experience any severe symptoms and did not spread the illness to any other people. So far, the illness has not been linked to any deaths among humans.


The Virus Is Deadly to Animals

The illness has recently begun spreading through cows, as evidenced by the dairy worker infected in Texas.

Three red farm houses with several cattle in the field

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A concerning turn for the flu is that it can be spread from birds to mammals, and has deadly effects. Dogs, cats, and farm animals can all be affected by the spread with negative results.


Cows Contracting Virus

Dead birds have been reported on some farms next to dairy farms. Cows have been infected through the spread of sick birds through the area.

A small herd of cattle stands in a field of tall dry grass behind a barbed wire fence on a day with grey clouds

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The illness has affected mainly older cows but has spread through New Mexico, Texas, and Kansas. So far, no deaths have been reported in any herds.


How the Illness Affects Milk

The virus has been detected in unpasteurized samples of milk collected from the cows that have been infected.

A close up shot of cows feet caked with mud that are hooked up to an automatic milking machine

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Officials stress that infected cows will be taken out of the milk supply. As well, pasteurizing milk is a safe defence to kill any live bacteria or viruses that may sneak their way in.


Milk From Sick Animals Will Be Destroyed

Dr Jim Lowe, a veterinarian and influenza researcher at the College of Veterinary Medicine of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has been studying the spread of the illness and the affects it has on cattle.

A farmer stands in between rows of cows being milked by machines

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He’s reassured the public that the milk from affected animals has an obviously different visual look and is immediately detected. All milk pumped from these cows will be destroyed immediately after samples are taken for testing.


The Virus Is Not Likely To Affect Humans

So far, testing on the infected milk has shown that it does not show any genetic mutations that make it more susceptible to infect humans.

A small blond child wearing a red sweater feeds a donkey from behind a wooden fence

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When Covid-19 was first detected, the illness mutated to become easily inhabitable inside of humans instead of in animals.


Bird Flu Spreads Faster During Migration

Since the illness primarily affects flocks of wild birds, the illness can spread through their excrement during long flights like migration.

A flock of seagulls flys through a blue sky

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The way that the virus spreads through animals means that protection dogs on farms and wild cats will also be in harm’s way during the spring and summer as the flu is on the rise.


Human to Human Infections Should Remain Low

The ability for the virus to mutate humans should remain low in the coming weeks and months as long as farmers and veterinarians remain vigilant.

A farmer wearing blue jeans and a red sweater feeds corn to cattle

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Animals that contract the illness will need to be quarantined until better or destroyed to ensure that the spread remains contained.