U.S. Health Officials Confirm First Human Case of Highly Contagious Bird Flu

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A highly contagious strain of avian flu has been detected in a human for the first time in the United States, officials said on Thursday. The strain has likely already killed hundreds of birds and spread across more than two dozen states. 

Colorado’s State Health Department said in a release that a man was working on a commercial farm and was involved in culling poultry suspected to be infected when he was directly exposed to the H5M1 flu.

The man, who is described to be younger than 40, has reported only one symptom, which is fatigue, and was taking the antiviral drug Tamiflu, the department said.

On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed a positive test administered this week by the state health department, which said it has been monitoring people exposed to poultry and wild birds, the agency said. 

The state health department described the man as a prison inmate who was working at a Montrose County farm as a part of a pre-release employment program. 

The infected flock was euthanized, the department said. 

The CDC and the state health agency said on Thursday that the risk the virus poses to people still remains low. 

While public health officials have worried that a mutation could present a threat to humans, only one other human case has been detected worldwide. In December, a person who raised birds in the United Kingdom tested positive for the virus. The CDC stated that the person was asymptomatic. 

The state health agency said earlier versions of the virus infected roughly 880 people beginning in 2003. Although the virus rarely infects people, it can be severe when it doesn’t. Its mortality rate is 60 percent according to the CDC.

More than 200 birds are believed to have been killed during an outbreak at a lake outside Chicago. At least three bald eagles died from the virus in Georgia.

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