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What To Know About US Outbreak

by UNN Feed

Earlier this month, a dairy worker in Texas tested positive for bird flu, aka avian influenza, amid an outbreak of the virus among dairy cattle.

It’s the first time this virulent strain of bird flu — referred to as highly pathogenic H5N1 — has been detected in cows and the first documented cow-to-human transmission of an avian influenza virus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s also only the second case of bird flu in a human in the United States.

Is bird flu a problem now?

The multi-state bird flu outbreak is affecting cows in over a dozen dairy farms across the country. Although health officials are on high alert, the current risk to the general public is low, experts say.

While the thought of “bird flu” may sound alarming and stoke COVID-19 pandemic fears, influenza among birds is not new.

“The current bird flu strain that we’re concerned with, H5N1, has actually been circulating around the world for quite some time,” Dr. William Schaffner, professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, tells TODAY.com.

What is bird flu?

Bird flu is a disease caused by infection with avian influenza type A viruses. Avian influenza A viruses occur naturally among wild aquatic birds, such as geese, ducks and swans, says Schaffner, but they can also circulate among domestic poultry.

“Bird flu viruses occasionally get into other mammalian species (like pigs). We’ve all heard of swine flu,” Schaffner says. Avian influenza A viruses can also infect horses, bats and dogs, per the CDC — rarely, they spread to humans.

“More recently, we have seen an increase of infections in cattle,” Dr. Hilary M. Babcock, infectious disease specialist at Washington University of St. Louis and BJC Healthcare, tells TODAY.com.

This is the first time the avian influenza strain of highly pathogenic H5N1, which causes severe and often fatal disease in birds, has been found in cows. “That’s pretty unusual,” says Schaffner….

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