A Colorado prison inmate who had direct exposure to poultry infected with avian flu is the first person in the U.S. to test positive with the current strain.
The man, who is an inmate at a state correctional facility in Delta County, has showed mild symptoms of fatigue, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said.
“This case does not change the human risk assessment for the general public, which CDC considers to be low,” the CDC said in a statement.
According to the Colorado health department, the man who tested positive is isolating and being treated with an antiviral drug. He was working at a commercial farm with infected poultry as part of a correctional pre-release employment program.
The infected flock was euthanized and properly disposed of, the department said; they were part of the more than 24 million chickens, turkeys and other domestic birds killed in the U.S. since February. The current H5 avian flu outbreak is the biggest outbreak since 2014-15.
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 current 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. Still, 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 take increased precautions, including wearing gloves, mask and eye protection and washing hands.
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While the H5N1 virus can spread between an infected person and a close contact only very rarely, based on previous outbreaks, it does not lead to sustained 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 raises birds became infected but did not have any symptoms in December 2021.