The Informer: Rare cases of people being infected with bird flu

Published 6:05 am Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Is bird flu just an animal thing — or can people catch it?

Although avian (bird) influenza (flu) usually does not infect people, there have been some rare cases of human infection with these viruses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Infected birds shed avian influenza viruses through their saliva, mucous and feces. Human infections with avian influenza viruses can happen when the virus gets into a person’s eyes, nose or mouth or is inhaled, the CDC reports.

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The reported signs and symptoms of bird flu virus infections in humans have ranged from no symptoms or mild illness — such as eye redness or mild flu-like upper respiratory symptoms — to severe — such as pneumonia requiring hospitalization — and included fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. Less common signs and symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting or seizures.

Avian influenza viruses have been detected in other species — mostly recently in dairy cattle.

In late March, a human case of this virus —  known as Type A H5N1 — was identified in a Texas dairy worker exposed to infected cows who developed a mild eye infection and then recovered.

About 33 people have been tested and another 260 are being monitored, according to the CDC.

U.S. officials on Friday pledged nearly $200 million in new spending and other efforts to help track and contain this outbreak. The new funds include $101 million to continue work to prevent, test, track and treat animals and humans potentially affected by the virus, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said. Another $98 million of the funds will provide up to $28,000 each to help individual farms test cattle and bolster biosecurity efforts to halt the spread of the virus, according to the Agriculture Department.

In addition, dairy farmers will be compensated for the loss of milk production from infected cattle, whose supply drops dramatically when they become sick, officials said. And dairy farmers and farm workers would be paid to participate in a workplace study conducted by the USDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Informer is written by Crystal Stevenson, American Press executive editor. To ask a question, call 494-4098 and leave voice mail, or email