A recovery is reported in Colorado for nation’s first human illness from bird flu

A Colorado  inmate who was working to combat avian flu in commercial poultry has himself  tested positive for the bird flu virus.  The man, who was under 40 years of age, was involved in the culling (depopulating) of  poultry with presumptive H5N1 bird flu when he tested positive for the virus.

During the current outbreaks of bird flu in the United States, the Colorado case is the case is the first human illness associated with the avian virus.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the patient is being isolated and treated with the influenza antiviral drug oseltamivir.   “While it is possible the detection of H5 bird flu in this specimen is a result of surface contamination of the nasal membrane, that can’t be determined at this point and the positive test result meets the criteria for an H5 case.,” CDC reported.  “The appropriate public health response at this time is to assume this is an infection and take actions to contain and treat.”

At the same time, the man has recovered after experiencing a few days of fatigue.  CDC said  the appropriate public health response was to assume this was an infection and take actions to contain and treat.

CDC also said: “This case does not change the human risk assessment for the general public, which CDC considers to be low. However, people who have job-related or recreational exposures to infected birds are at higher risk of infection should take appropriate precautions outlined in CDC guidance.”

CDC has been monitoring for illness among people exposed to H5N1 virus-infected birds since these outbreaks were detected in U.S. wild birds and poultry in late 2021 and into 2022. Other people involved in the culling operation in Colorado have tested negative for H5 virus infection, but they are being retested out of an abundance of caution.

CDC has tracked the health of more than 2,500 people with exposures to H5N1 virus-infected birds and this is the only case that has been found to date. This is the second human case associated with this specific group of H5 viruses that are currently predominant, and the first case in the United States.

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which is tasked with knocking down the current large outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).   APHIS reports that to date, the virus has been confirmed in 29 states, affecting more than 33 million domestic birds.  APHIS is working closely with State animal health officials on joint incident responses in each of the affected states.

To continue the response, USDA has approved   the transfer of nearly $263 million from the Commodity Credit Corporation to APHIS for its continued efforts.

“Highly pathogenic avian influenza is a serious concern for our nation’s poultry industry, and we need to continue our nationwide response to minimize the impact,” said USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt. “The Agency’s actions during this ongoing emergency serve to safeguard U.S. poultry and egg producers and reduce the effects of avian influenza on agriculture and trade, while also enhancing readiness for other animal health emergencies.”

The Secretary of Agriculture is authorized to transfer funding from available resources (e.g., the Commodity Credit Corporation) to address emergency outbreaks of animal and plant pests and diseases.

The Secretary previously approved the use of approximately $130 million in emergency funding in mid-March, and APHIS has used these funds to address nationwide HPAI detections to date. These funds have been used to address indemnity, diagnostics, field activities, and other emergency response costs.

HPAI is a serious disease and requires rapid response because it is highly contagious and often fatal to poultry. APHIS and officials from affected states are responding in accordance with Federal and State HPAI response plans, which include implementing quarantine restrictions, depopulating affected flocks, disposing of depopulated birds, cleaning and eliminating the virus from affected premises, and conducting surveillance in surrounding areas.

While these response efforts are vital to ending the outbreak, there are also actions bird owners can take to help stop the spread of this virus,  according to APHIS.   The agency says  biosecurity is critical for all bird owners.  It  encourages bird owners to work to ensure domestic birds do not come into contact with wild birds, and keep poultry confined inside during this high-risk period of migratory bird activity.  It also encourages bird owners to limit traffic on and off your farm and use personal protective equipment and disinfection when caring for birds to avoid introducing HPAI.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)