A Colorado man has tested positive for an H5 bird flu virus, state officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday, marking the first recorded human infection in the United States of the highly contagious virus that tears up commercial and wild bird flocks, but which experts say poses little threat to humans.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) said the man was incarcerated in a state correctional facility and was exposed to infected poultry while working on a commercial farm in the state. Montrose County.
The man tested positive for an avian influenza A(H5) virus earlier this week and the CDC confirmed the result on Wednesday, the CDPHE said, although repeated tests were negative for the flu.
It is possible that the person was not actually infected with the virus, the CDPHE noted, suggesting that the virus may have been present in their nose due to close contact with infected poultry but did not caused by infection.
The man, described as under 40, “largely asymptomatic” and reporting only fatigue, is self-isolating and is now taking the antiviral drug oseltamivir, also known as tamiflu, the CDPHE said.
No other cases have been confirmed in humans in Colorado or the United States, the CDPHE said.
“We want to reassure Coloradans that the risk to them is low,” said Dr. Rachel Herlihy, state epidemiologist with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
It is only the second human infection caused by this particular version of the H5N1 avian flu to be recorded worldwide, the first being an elderly British man who lived with a number of ducks inside his house in december.
H5N1 flu is a type of flu virus that primarily infects birds, although it can infect humans. It can be deadly and highly contagious and is devastating to wild and commercial bird populations. Outbreaks across Europe and the US mean millions of birds have already been culled to stop the spread and health officials have warned people to avoid contact with birds that appear sick or dead . Many bird owners, such as zoos, have chosen to move them indoors to reduce the risk of exposure to wild birds.
33 million. That’s the number of domestic birds affected by the latest avian flu outbreak in the United States, according to the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. It has been confirmed in 29 states, the agency said.
Costco’s rotisserie chicken supply threatened by bird flu (Forbes)
North American zoos are moving birds indoors to protect them from bird flu (NPR)