What to know as Texas person contracts virus

Kenneth.Wong@fox.com (Kenneth Wong)
7 Min Read

News that a Texas person has been diagnosed with bird flu has people talking about a specific type of flu virus that doesn’t often infect humans.

Here’s what to know about the virus and why some are concerned.

What happened?

Health officials in Texas announced on April 1 that a person in the state had the first case, ever in the state, of human H5N1 novel avian influenza A.

“The patient became ill following contact with dairy cows presumed to be infected with avian influenza. The patient’s primary symptom was conjunctivitis,” read a portion of the statement.

Overall, this is the second case of human H5N1 infection in the country. The first case, according to the CDC, happened in 2022, and involved a person who had direct exposure to poultry.

What’s H5N1?

The virion for H5N1, as seen under an electron microscope. (Courtesy: CDC)

According to the CDC, The “H5” in “H5N1” refers to a subtype of Avian influenza A. The H5 subtype, along with subtyped H7 and H9, are known to infect people. 

Avian influenza (or bird flu), according to the CDC, is a type of flu virus that naturally spreads among wild aquatic birds worldwide, and can infect domestic poultry, along with other bird and animal species.

While Avian influenza A viruses can be classified into either a Low Pathogenic or Highly Pathogenic category, CDC officials note that the designations “do not refer to or correlate with the severity of illness in cases of human infection with these viruses,” and that virus subtypes in both categories have caused mild to severe illnesses in infected humans. 

What are the symptoms?

In 2022, the CDC said reported signs and symptoms of bird flu virus infections in humans ranged from having no symptoms or mild illness (such as conjunctivitis or mild flu-like upper respiratory symptoms) to severe symptoms that can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.

Experts say in some cases, hospitalization may be required.

Do humans normally get bird flu?

Experts say bird flu viruses do not normally infect humans. With that said, however, infections (as mentioned above) can happen. In some instances, many people can be infected.

According to the CDC’s website, there have been at least four instances where an Avian influenza virus resulted in dozens of human cases. One of the bird flu outbreaks that received media attention was a H5N1 outbreak that happened in 1997 in Hong Kong, which resulted in 18 infections and six fatalities.

A report by the Associated Press states that the government in the former British colony at the time closed live poultry markets, killed all the birds in the markets, and stopped bringing in chickens from Southern China in response to the outbreak.

Can I get bird flu by eating poultry?

The CDC says it’s safe to eat properly handled and cooked poultry in the U.S.

“Properly handling and cooking poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165˚F kills bacteria and viruses, including bird flu viruses,” read a portion of their website.

Besides infecting people, how does the bird flu impact society?

The AP has reported that poultry deaths from either the virus or culls were one of the reasons cited for soaring egg prices from 2022 to 2023.

Is there a vaccine for bird flu? What about treatments?

A doctor pulls a vaccine dose from a package containing a flu vaccine. (Photo by Marcus Brandt/picture alliance via Getty Images)

A doctor pulls a vaccine dose from a package containing a flu vaccine. (Photo by Marcus Brandt/picture alliance via Getty Images)

The CDC’s website states that the federal government “maintains a stockpile of vaccines, including vaccines against A(H5N1) and A(H7N9) bird flu viruses.”

As far as treatment is concerned, CDC officials say current flu antiviral drugs can be used to treat most bird flu virus infections.

“However, some evidence shows flu antiviral drugs may not work as well against some A(H5N1) and A(H7N9) bird flu viruses that were first detected in Asia,” read a portion of the CDC website. “When flu viruses evolve in ways that make antiviral treatment less effective, this is called antiviral resistance. CDC regularly tests bird flu viruses for antiviral resistance.”

What can I do to reduce my risk of getting bird flu?

CDC officials say the best way to prevent bird flu is to avoid sources of exposure, whenever possible.

The advice includes:

1. Avoid direct contact with wild birds, and observe them only from a distance.

2. Avoid unprotected contact with domestic poultry that look sick or have died.

3. Avoid touching surfaces that may be contaminated with saliva, mucous, or feces from wild or domestic birds.

(This website does not provide medical advice. The information provided above are meant to be informative, and nothing on this site should be considered as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have concerns about your health, reach out to your primary care doctor or other health care providers. In cases of life-threatening emergencies, call 911 immediately.)

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[email protected] (Kenneth Wong) , www.fox10phoenix.com
Latest News | FOX 10 , 2024-04-02 22:53:16
Tags: Explainers,News,Health

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