Texas reports human case of avian flu virus, DSHS issues health alert


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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Department of State Health Services, or DSHS, reported Monday a human case of avian influenza A(H5N1), also known as bird flu, in the state.

According to a press release from the department, the person had direct contact with dairy cattle presumed to be infected with avian influenza.

DSHS did not specify where the person lives or where they contracted the virus, however, officials last week confirmed an illness that impacted dairies in the Texas Panhandle was bird flu.

DSHS has issued a health alert asking health care providers around affected dairies to be vigilant for possible human cases and is providing testing and treatment recommendations.

The person’s only reported symptom was eye inflammation, according to the release. They were tested for the virus last week with confirmatory testing performed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over the weekend, and they’re now being treated with antiviral drug oseltamivir.

DSHS said the case “does not change the risk for the general public, which remains low.”

The release also said the CDC has only reported one other human case of H5N1 in the U.S., and this is the first linked to an exposure to cattle.

DSHS said it is working with TAHC, CDC and other state and federal health agencies to investigate the human and animal cases and understand how the virus is spreading in order to protect livestock and people who work with it.

According to the CDC, bird flu refers to the disease caused by infection with avian (bird) influenza (flu) Type A viruses. These viruses naturally spread among wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect domestic poultry and other bird and animal species. The CDC’s website says bird flu viruses do not normally infect humans, however, sporadic human infections with bird flu viruses have occurred.

DSHS maintains that the cattle infections do not present concern for commercial milk supply, and said dairies are required to destroy or divert milk from any sick cows, and pasteurization kills avian flu viruses.

DSHS sait it’s providing guidance to affected dairies about how to minimize workers’ exposure and how people who work with affected cattle can monitor for flu-like symptoms and get tested. Illnesses in people with H5N1 flu infections have ranged from mild, such as eye infection and upper respiratory symptoms, to severe, such as pneumonia and death, according to the DSHS release.