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Human in Texas Comes Down With Bird Flu Via Cattle

April 2, 2024
Last week, highly pathogenic avian influenza appeared in dairy herds in Texas and Kansas; this is the first transmission to a human.

A person exposed to dairy cattle in Texas has tested positive for the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 virus, the Texas Dept. of Health and Human Services reported to the Centers for Disease Control. Their only symptom was eye redness (consistent with conjunctivitis), and they are recovering, according to the International Dairy Foods Assn.

We reported March 25 that USDA confirmed HPAI in two dairy cattle herds in Texas and two herds in Kansas; a subsequent case was found in Michigan. There’s no threat to human health, officials said at the time, and milk and dairy products remain safe to consume – as long as they are pasteurized. Even the cows are mildly affected, most recovering within two to three weeks.

We’ve carried stories in recent weeks about bird flu among chicken and turkey flocks, but last week’s was apparently the first occurrence of it in another species of farm animal. CDC says H5N1 viruses only rarely have been transmitted from person to person. As such, the risk to the general public remains low at this time.

USDA today reported HPAI H5N1 in a dairy herd in New Mexico, as well as five additional dairy herds in Texas plus a presumptive positive test for a herd in Idaho.

HPAI primarily is spread by birds to other birds, although it can infect other mammals, especially those outdoors on farms. All dairy farmers have been told to increase biosecurity measures.

About the Author

Dave Fusaro | Editor in Chief

Dave Fusaro has served as editor in chief of Food Processing magazine since 2003. Dave has 30 years experience in food & beverage industry journalism and has won several national ASBPE writing awards for his Food Processing stories. Dave has been interviewed on CNN, quoted in national newspapers and he authored a 200-page market research report on the milk industry. Formerly an award-winning newspaper reporter who specialized in business writing, he holds a BA in journalism from Marquette University. Prior to joining Food Processing, Dave was Editor-In-Chief of Dairy Foods and was Managing Editor of Prepared Foods.

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