June 25, 2024

The dairy worker is the first to display respiratory symptoms

A third dairy worker has contracted H5N1 bird flu from cows, health officials reported on Thursday. The case is notable because it is the first in which a person has displayed respiratory symptoms of the virus.

The dairy worker is the second in Michigan, from two separate farms, to contract bird flu from contact with infected cows. A worker from a Texas dairy farm also contracted the virus.

What makes this new case different is that the worker is now displaying respiratory symptoms. In the first two cases, both workers reported eye symptoms (conjunctivitis) but nothing else. By contrast, the latest case reported upper respiratory symptoms including cough, congestion and a sore threat, as well as eye discomfort and watery discharge. The worker has been given flu medication and is recovering.

The chief executive for Michigan’s health department, Natasha Bagdasarian, explained in a statement that the new case appears to have occurred via a different route of exposure.

“With the first case in Michigan, eye symptoms occurred after a direct splash of infected milk to the eye,” Bagdasarian said.

“With this case, respiratory symptoms occurred after direct exposure to an infected cow. Neither individual was wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE).”

Bagdasarian added that there are no “signs of sustained human-to-human transmission, and the current health risk to the general public remains low.”

Amid widening fears about a possible bird-flu pandemic, countries around the world are stockpiling vaccines.

The US government is also poised to invest millions of dollars in the development of new vaccines to combat the virus. The US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) is set to reach an agreement with Moderna to fund human trials for its experimental mRNA bird-flu vaccine. As part of the deal, the US government would commit to stockpiling millions of the vaccines if the human trials are successful.

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