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Bird Flu Spreading: What to know as new cases are found in livestock and people

Posted at 10:56 AM, Jun 07, 2024

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship announced Wednesday that the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza or bird flu was detected in a dairy herd in O’Brien County. Making Iowa the 10th state with confirmed bird flu in a dairy herd.

"The worry is that this influenza virus will become adapted to mammals, including humans, and then potentially result in serious illness," said Dr. Mark Rupp, chief of infectious diseases at Nebraska Medicine.

Dr. Rupp said right now the threat to public health is low.

"We have seen just a few sporadic cases in humans thus far, just two or three cases, they have been mild predominately involving the eyes causing a conjunctivitis," Rupp said.

The CDC reports that there have been four human cases in the U.S. since 2022 across three states. Three of those followed exposure to dairy cows between the first of April and May 29th of this year.

"It's something that I think we really do need to keep an eye on and be very careful with and do what we can to prevent this from spreading within our dairy herds within our food animals," Rupp said.

If you have close exposure to dairy cattle and have a flu-like illness, fevers, or eye inflammation, Dr. Rupp says those can be signs of H5N1.

Rupp noted - with this virus impacting dairy cows in different states, this virus can be found in milk. However, it is eliminated through pasteurization. However, he suggests not consuming raw milk -- because of the risk of transmission.

He says the most important thing we can do right now is stay vigilant and remain engaged.

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