Colorado prison inmate diagnosed with human bird flu; first case of strain detected in the United States

A Colorado prison inmate who was directly exposed to bird flu-infected poultry is the first person in the United States to test positive for the current strain.

The man, held at a state correctional facility in Delta County, had mild symptoms of fatigue, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

“This case does not change the human risk assessment for the general public, which the CDC considers low,” the CDC said in a statement.

According to the Colorado Department of Health, the man who tested positive is in isolation and is being treated with antiviral medication. He worked on a commercial farm with poultry as part of a pre-release correctional employment program.

The infected herd was euthanized and culled, the department said; more than 24 million chickens, turkeys and other domestic birds have been killed in the United States since February. The H5 avian flu epidemic is the largest since 2014-2015.

The CDC said H5N1 has been found in U.S. commercial and backyard birds in 29 states and in wild birds in 34 states since it began tracking the outbreak in late 2021.

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“Because the person was in close contact with infected poultry, the virus may have been present in the person’s nose without causing infection,” the Colorado department said. The CDC said it was appropriate to contain and treat the case as an infection.

The CDC recommends that people who work in direct contact with poultry increase precautions, including wearing gloves, a mask and eye protection and washing hands.

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Although the H5N1 virus can only very rarely spread between an infected person and a close contact, based on previous outbreaks, it does not cause lasting spread between humans, the CDC said.

Only one other person is known to have tested positive with the current strain: a person in the UK who keeps birds was infected but showed no symptoms in December 2021.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Bird flu: First human case of current H5N1 strain located in the United States

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