A minimum of one particular person in Texas has been recognized with fowl flu following contact with dairy cows presumed to be contaminated, state officials said on Monday.

The announcement provides a worrying dimension to an outbreak that has affected hundreds of thousands of birds and sea mammals worldwide and, most lately, cows in america.

To date, there are not any indicators that the virus has developed in ways in which would assist it unfold extra simply amongst folks, federal officers have mentioned.

The affected person’s major symptom was conjunctivitis; the person is being handled with an antiviral drug and is recovering, based on the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention.

The Division of Agriculture introduced the first cases in dairy herds in Texas and Kansas final week, after which, a few days later, in an extra herd in Michigan. Preliminary testing means that cows in New Mexico and Idaho may be contaminated.

The virus has been recognized as the identical model of H5N1, an influenza subtype, that’s circulating in North American birds.

The C.D.C. is working with state well being departments to observe others who might have been involved with contaminated birds and animals, the company mentioned on Monday.

That is solely the second case of H5N1 fowl flu in folks in america; the first was in 2022. Consultants mentioned that they consider the danger to most of the people stays low. However testing and evaluation is ongoing, and there are various unanswered questions.

“It is a quickly evolving scenario,” the united statesD.A. mentioned in its announcement final week.

Right here’s what to know:

Chicken flu, or avian influenza, is a gaggle of flu viruses which can be primarily tailored to birds. The actual virus in these new circumstances, known as H5N1, was first recognized in 1996 in geese in China, and in folks in Hong Kong in 1997.

In 2020, a brand new, extremely pathogenic type of H5N1 emerged in Europe and unfold shortly all over the world. In america, it has affected more than 82 million farmed birds, the worst fowl flu outbreak in U.S. historical past.

For the reason that virus was first recognized, there have additionally been sporadic circumstances in folks in different international locations. In 2023, there have been 248 cases of people contaminated with H5N1 virus, and 139 deaths, based on the World Well being Group. However a overwhelming majority resulted from extended, direct contact with birds.

H5N1 doesn’t but appear to have tailored to unfold effectively amongst folks, consultants say.

Cows weren’t considered a species at excessive danger.

“The truth that they’re vulnerable — the virus can replicate, could make them sick — that’s one thing I wouldn’t have predicted,” mentioned Richard Webby, an influenza virologist at St. Jude Kids’s Analysis Hospital.

However earlier this 12 months, experiences of sick cows started rising in Texas and New Mexico. Lifeless birds had been additionally discovered on a few of these farms, and laboratory testing finally confirmed the cows had been contaminated with fowl flu.

There are a number of ways in which the virus might need discovered its approach into cattle. The most certainly route, a number of consultants mentioned, is that contaminated wild birds, which shed the virus of their feces and oral secretions, contaminated the cows’ meals or water.

However different free-ranging animals identified to be vulnerable to the virus, resembling cats and raccoons, might even have introduced the virus onto dairy farms.

Though the virus is usually deadly in birds, it seems to be inflicting comparatively gentle sickness in cows.

“It’s not killing animals, and so they appear to be recovering,” mentioned Dr. Joe Armstrong, a veterinarian and cattle manufacturing skilled on the College of Minnesota Extension. Final week, the united statesD.A. mentioned that there were no plans to “depopulate,” or kill, affected herds, which is the usual process when poultry flocks are contaminated with the virus.

The illness is primarily affecting older cows, which have developed signs that embody a lack of urge for food, a low-grade fever and a big drop in milk manufacturing. The milk that the cows do produce is usually “thick and discolored,” according to Texas officials. The virus has additionally been present in unpasteurized milk samples collected from sick cows.

It’s not but clear whether or not the fowl flu virus is the only reason for all the signs and sicknesses which have been reported, consultants cautioned.

It’s unclear. As of final Friday, the united statesD.A.’s Nationwide Veterinary Companies Laboratory had confirmed fowl flu infections in two herds in Texas, two herds in Kansas and one herd in Michigan. Preliminary testing has instructed that further herds in Texas, New Mexico and Idaho may have the virus, however these findings haven’t but been confirmed by the nationwide laboratory. To date, it has been discovered solely in dairy cows and never in beef cattle.

However as a result of cows usually are not routinely examined for fowl flu, and the sickness has been comparatively gentle, there might be different contaminated herds which have escaped detection, consultants mentioned.

And the motion of cattle between states might transport the virus to new areas. The affected dairy in Michigan had lately imported cows from one of many contaminated Texas herds. On the time the cows had been transported, the animals weren’t displaying any signs. The farm in Idaho had additionally lately imported cows from an affected state, Idaho officials said.

That could be a key, and nonetheless unanswered, query. It’s potential that the contaminated cows are all choosing up the virus independently, particularly if shared meals or water sources have been contaminated.

A extra worrisome risk, nonetheless, is that the virus is spreading from cow to cow. On Friday, the united statesD.A. famous that “transmission between cattle can’t be dominated out.”

A number of scientists mentioned that they might be stunned if there was not a point of cow-to-cow transmission. “How else might it transfer so quickly?” mentioned Dr. Gregory Grey, an infectious illness epidemiologist on the College of Texas Medical Department.

If the virus seems to unfold simply between cows, that might result in bigger, extra sustained outbreaks. It might additionally give the virus extra alternatives to adapt to its new mammalian hosts, growing the danger that it acquires mutations that make it extra harmful to folks.

Analyzing the genetic sequence of the virus from contaminated birds, cows and folks can reveal whether or not H5N1 has acquired mutations that assist it unfold amongst folks.

Scientists have been carefully monitoring infections in birds and sea mammals and, now, cows. To date, the virus doesn’t appear to have gained the power to unfold effectively between folks.

In 2012, scientists confirmed that H5N1 was capable of spread through air between ferrets — a preferred mannequin for finding out transmission of respiratory viruses amongst folks — after buying 5 mutations.

A pattern of fowl flu isolated from a Chilean man final 12 months had two mutations that point out adaptation to infecting mammals. However these mutations have beforehand been seen with out the virus evolving additional to unfold between folks, consultants mentioned.

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