Bird flu detected in Michigan dairy farm worker, CDC reports. Here’s what to know.

Bird flu, also known as avian influenza, has been detected in a dairy farm worker in Michigan, making them the second human in the United States to contract the virus during the current outbreak among cattle. Fortunately, the individual has recovered and experienced only mild symptoms. State health officials have emphasized that the risk to the general public remains low. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are taking extra precautions, particularly for individuals who have close contact with dairy cattle. Here’s what you need to know about the latest developments:

  • In the United States, there have been two reported cases of bird flu among humans so far.
  • The infected individual in Michigan has already recovered from the virus and only experienced mild symptoms.
  • State health officials assure the public that the overall risk of contracting bird flu remains low.
  • The CDC is implementing additional measures to protect individuals who are in close contact with dairy cattle, where the outbreak has occurred.
    A Michigan dairy worker has become the third person in the U.S. to contract bird flu this year, and only the third case ever recorded in the country. Bird flu, scientifically known as H5N1, is a strain of influenza A that is prevalent in wild birds and, to a lesser extent, poultry. In the U.S., the virus initially spread among poultry in 2022, with the first human infection occurring in Colorado during the culling of an infected flock. The virus then made its way to dairy cattle in 2024, with a Texas dairy farm worker testing positive in April. The recent case in Michigan marks the third-ever U.S. case of bird flu.
    According to the CDC, there have been over 880 human cases of bird flu worldwide since 2003. However, these cases are still considered rare and infrequent, primarily occurring in other countries. In the past, the largest outbreaks were linked to exposures at poultry markets, which are common in certain countries like Egypt, China, and Indonesia. However, since 2021, there has been a rise in human cases of bird flu in countries where it was previously unheard of. For example, Australia reported its first-ever case on May 22 when a child was infected after traveling to India in March. Although the child’s infection was severe, they have since recovered, according to Australian health officials.
    All the reported infections in the U.S. have been mild, including the case of the Texas dairy farm worker and the most recent case in Michigan, where the only symptom was pink eye (conjunctivitis). Interestingly, the Michigan farm worker initially tested negative for bird flu using a nasal swab, but tested positive when an eye tissue swab was used, as stated by the CDC. The only symptom reported by the American poultry worker infected in 2022 was fatigue, and all three Americans who contracted bird flu have fully recovered. However, it is worth noting that bird flu has caused severe infections and 463 deaths in other countries in the past, according to the World Health Organization.

As for the reason why this is happening now, it is unclear and further investigation is needed.
The constant mutation of viruses is a well-known fact. However, the recent mutations of the bird flu virus have raised concerns. Dr. Arnold Monto, an expert in viruses and a professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan, explains that the virus spreading among cattle is a new and unexpected development. This indicates that the virus has improved its ability to infect mammals, which brings it closer to the possibility of easily infecting humans. However, it’s important to note that, currently, the virus has only infected individuals who have had prolonged and close contact with dairy cattle. As a result, the risk of catching bird flu remains relatively low for the general population.
Dairy and beef products are safe for consumption, as there have been no reported cases of the bird flu virus spreading between people. Although some dairy cattle herds have been infected, only two individuals out of the 100,000 dairy farm workers in the U.S. have contracted bird flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has requested states to remain vigilant for any human infections and continue monitoring individuals who test positive for flu symptoms. However, there is no cause for concern regarding the safety of dairy and beef products.
According to experts, there is no need to worry about bird flu infection from grocery store milk samples. While fragments of the virus have been found in about 20% of these samples, they are unable to cause any harm. The standard process of pasteurization effectively deactivates bird flu in milk, making it safe for consumption. However, health officials advise against drinking raw milk, as it is unsterilized and may contain various viruses and bacteria. Additionally, cooking ground beef to medium well or well-done temperatures also eliminates the virus.