What do we know about the 2nd human case linked to an epidemic in cows in the United States?

What do we know about the 2nd human case linked to an epidemic in cows in the United States?
What do we know about the 2nd human case linked to an epidemic in cows in the United States?

First cases of infection via cows

A human case of avian flu was discovered in the country in 2022, in Colorado, but it was then an infection by poultry. Something has changed. On April 1, what was “probably” the first case of avian influenza infection via a cow worldwide was announced in Texas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

And this time, it was a person working on a farm where the H5N1 virus infected dairy cows, in the state of Michigan who was infected. For the person infected in Michigan as in Texas, the patients only showed symptoms in the eyes, specifies the CDC. Both have recovered.

More and more species infected

Cattle herds in at least nine US states are affected by this outbreak. The first report dates from March 25. Above all, experts are concerned about the increasing number of mammals infected with the disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) in particular expressed its “huge concern” in mid-April about the increasing spread of avian flu to new species. Goats, for example, have joined the list.

How were these mammals infected? According to preliminary studies, dead birds have been found on some of the affected farms, which could explain the origin of the virus. However, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has identified transmission of the virus between cows within the same herd, or between dairies during animal movements.

The cows are recovering and the disease is associated with “little or no mortality,” according to a ministry press release at the end of April.

No human-to-human transmission, for now

“It is important to emphasize that so far we have not found any modification of the virus that would make it more contagious to humans or between people,” adds the ministry.

But even though there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission at this time, scientists fear that high circulation could facilitate a mutation of the virus that would allow it to pass from one human to another. .

The CDC on Wednesday again emphasized the importance of precautionary measures for people exposed to sick or potentially infected animals. These people must in particular avoid “close, prolonged and unprotected” contact with these animals, as well as with their excrement, or even with unpasteurized raw milk.

Other possible cases?

At the end of April, the United States Medicines Agency (FDA) confirmed that milk sold in stores in the United States was “safe”, the pasteurization process being “effective” in killing the avian flu virus. But this is not the case with raw milk from infected cows, where high levels of H5N1 virus have been detected. And given “the extent of spread of this virus in dairy cows, additional similar cases in humans may be identified,” the CDC warns.

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