Bird flu outbreak hits Texas

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – A Texas dairy worker is recovering from bird flu after contact with infected cattle earlier this week. 

Health officials say there’s little risk to the public right now, but they are monitoring the virus. 

The Centers for Disease Control says it’s only the second time a human has contracted avian flu in the U.S. 

“This was an individual who had close contact with sick cattle,” Texas Department of State Health Services Spokesman Chris Van Deusen said. 

Van Deusen says the person infected showed one symptom, pink eye, and is getting better with the antiviral drug, Tamiflu. 

He says the exact transmission path isn’t clear. But it’s possible that infected birds contaminated cattle feed, sickening cows and then the person. He says the state is closely watching other infected cattle. 

“We have seen positive reports at multiple dairies in the panhandle,” Van Deusen said. 

The USDA reports cattle in Michigan, Kansas and New Mexico have also tested positive. And the bird flu is affecting birds, too. 

The country’s largest producer of eggs, Cal-Maine Foods, reported an outbreak at a Texas facility. The company slaughtered nearly two million chickens.

While rare in the U.S., around the world, from 2003 to February of this year, 887 people contracted bird flu and 462 died from it, according to the World Health Organization. 

The CDC says the risk to humans is low because there’s no indication right now it can spread from person to person.

“Really importantly, cows aren’t humans,” Dr. Demetre Daskalakis said. 

Daskalakis is Director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. 

“What we know to date is we have one case in a human, and that person is doing great,” Daskalakis said. 

Daskalakis says it is still safe to consume pasteurized dairy products. 

“We pasteurize milk for a reason, and that’s because it kills bacteria and viruses,” Daskalakis said. 

He says people who work with livestock should limit their exposure to sick animals, and all of us should avoid handling dead birds. 

The first case of bird flu in a human in the U.S. was reported in Colorado in 2022. The man was working with infected poultry, and he recovered.