Colorado man tests positive for H5 bird flu, 1st human case in the U.S. as CDC reports public health risk assessment remains low

KKTV 11

MONTROSE COUNTY, Colo. (KKTV) – The first human case associated with the H5 bird flu in the U.S. was detected in a Colorado man.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shared information on the case with the public on Thursday, adding the “public health risk assessment remains low.” The CDC adds people who have job-related or recreational exposures to infected birds are at a higher risk of infection and should take appropriate precautions.

The CDC has been monitoring people exposed to H5N1 virus-infected birds since the outbreaks were first detected in wild birds and poultry in late 2021. To date, H5N1 viruses have been found in U.S. commercial and backyard birds in 29 states and in wild birds in 34 states. 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. Other people involved in the culling operation in Colorado have tested negative for H5 virus infection, but they are being tested again out of an abundance of caution. Several wild birds have tested positive for the virus in Colorado.

“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,” part of a news release from the CDC reads. “The first case internationally occurred in December 2021 in the United Kingdom in a person who did not have any symptoms and who raised birds that became infected with H5N1 virus. More than 880 human infections with earlier H5N1 viruses have been reported since 2003 worldwide, however, the predominant H5N1 viruses now circulating among birds globally are different from earlier H5N1 viruses.”

The 40-year-old man who tested positive was isolating as of Thursday as he was only experiencing fatigue. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is reporting the positive result is due to direct exposure to infected poultry at a commercial farm in Montrose County. The person, who is an inmate at a state correctional facility in Delta County, was working with poultry as part of a pre-release employment program where participants have the opportunity to work for private employers and be paid a prevailing wage. The affected flock has been euthanized and disposed of under the guidance of the USDA and CDA. All members of the response team, including other inmate workers, were provided personal protective equipment while working on the farm.

“We want to reassure Coloradans that the risk to them is low,” said Dr. Rachel Herlihy, state epidemiologist, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “I am grateful for the seamless collaboration between CDC, Department of Corrections, Department of Agriculture, and CDPHE, as we continue to monitor this virus and protect all Coloradans.”

CDPHE adds human infections of the h5 viruses are rare.

Click here for more guidance from the CDC on bird flu.

Click here for more guidance from CDPHE on bird flu.

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