Nation’s third human bird flu case detected in Michigan

3 min read
  • Another farmworker is infected with the highly pathogenic avian influenza, or bird flu
  • Michigan is one of nine states in which the outbreak has infected cows
  • All three of the farmworkers have recovered, and health officials stress the risk to the general public is low

A second Michigan farmworker has been infected with avian flu — the third in the nation, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

None of the three workers — one in Texas and two in Michigan — appear to be associated with each other or the cattle herds with which they worked, but are part of a larger, national outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza, or bird flu, according to the CDC and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

The outbreak has killed nearly 100 million chickens and infected 67 cattle herds across Michigan and eight other states, according to the most recent data by the CDC. It also has been detected among wild birds and mammals — from bears, dolphins and squirrels to domesticated cats.

Like the first two infected farmworkers, the third farmworker worked closely with cows that were infected with Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). The infection in the Texas worker was confirmed in April; the state health department announced the infection in the first Michigan worker May 22, although state officials did not say when he or she was infected.


Still, the risk to the public remains low; state and federal health departments reiterated Thursday. Also on Thursday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture stressed that a “rigorous meat inspection process” continues to confirm that eating beef is safe. The commercial milk supply also is safe because of pasteurization, it has previously reported.

And health officials have stressed that it’s not unexpected that stepped-up testing, because of the outbreak, will identify sporadic human infections in farmworkers.

Just four human cases of avian flu — H5N1 — have ever been detected in the U.S. The first, in 2022, was detected in someone “following exposure to presumably infected poultry,” according to the CDC.

“Based on the information available at this time, this [most recent] case does not change CDC’s current A(H5N1) bird flu human health risk assessment for the U.S. general public because all three sporadic cases had direct contact with infected cows,” according to a statement released by the CDC. “Risk depends on exposure, and in this case, the relevant exposure is to infected animals.”

All three workers have recovered. The first two workers had only eye infections, according to previous health department reports.

“With the first case in Michigan, eye symptoms occurred after a direct splash of infected milk to the eye,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, the state health department’s chief medical executive. 

In the latest case, “respiratory symptoms occurred after direct exposure to an infected cow,” she said, according to the statement.

Neither of the workers were wearing full personal protective equipment, or PPE. Both Bagdasarian and Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Director Tim Boring encouraged workers to use PPE.

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