Second case of bird flu in humans confirmed in a Michigan farmer

May 22, 2024

A farmworker in Michigan is the second human to be infected with the current H5N1 bird flu virus, health officials said. 

The farmworker had mild symptoms and has since recovered, Michigan health officials said Wednesday. The virus has been circulating in dairy and poultry farms across the U.S. this spring, and the farmworker was in contact with dairy cattle presumed to be infected. 

“The current health risk to the general public remains low,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan’s chief medical executive, in a statement. “We have not seen signs of sustained human-to-human transmission at this point. This is exactly how public health is meant to work, in early detection and monitoring of new and emerging illnesses.” 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a nasal swab from the person tested negative for influenza in a state lab, but an eye swab from the patient was shipped to the CDC and tested positive for influenza A virus, indicating an eye infection. 

Since 2022, there have been two previous human cases related to bird and dairy exposure in the U.S.: one in Colorado in 2022, and one in Texas earlier this year. 

Similar to the Texas case, the patient in Michigan only reported eye symptoms. 

Bird flu was first detected in dairy cows in March, though data from viral samples showed it had been circulating in cattle for at least four months prior and was the cause of a drop in milk production.  

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has confirmed outbreaks in 51 herds in nine states, including Michigan, which has reported 19 infected herds 

“Today’s news underscores the continued importance of limiting nonessential farm visits, including farm tours and field trips, as well as the use of personal protective equipment when working with livestock,” Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Director Tim Boring said in a statement.