Bird flu reported in another Michigan farmworker

(CBS DETROIT) — A second case of H5 influenza, also known as bird flu or avian influenza, was detected in another Michigan farmworker, marking the second human case in Michigan and the third in the country overall.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says the new case was reported in a farmworker who worked closely with cows that tested positive for bird flu. That worker was employed at a different farm than the worker in the case announced on May 22.

Officials say the risk to the general public is still low, and the farmworker who tested positive was given antivirals and is currently recovering from respiratory symptoms, including a cough and eye discomfort with a watery discharge. The worker did not have a fever, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Household contacts with the infected farmworker haven’t developed any symptoms, and no other workers at the same farm have reported bird flu symptoms. 

“Michigan has led a swift public health response, and we have been tracking this situation closely since influenza A (H5N1) was detected in poultry and dairy herds in Michigan,” chief medical executive Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian said. “Farmworkers who have been exposed to impacted animals have been asked to report even mild symptoms, and testing for the virus has been made available. With the first case in Michigan, eye symptoms occurred after a direct splash of infected milk to the eye. With this case, respiratory symptoms occurred after direct exposure to an infected cow.”

Health officials say in both Michigan cases, neither farmworker was wearing full protective gear. 

“Proper use of personal protective equipment is the best tool we have to protect farm workers,” Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Director Tim Boring said. “MDARD is currently offering assistance to dairy farms in need of additional protective equipment. MDARD has and will continue to take bold actions to assist farms impacted by this disease.”

The first case of bird flu in a human was detected in a Texas farmworker who was exposed to infected dairy cattle. 

Bird flu was first detected in Michigan in dairy herds that arrived in Michigan from Texas, and have since been found in Clinton, Gratiot and Ionia counties. 

Earlier this month, Michigan egg producer Herbuck’s Poultry Ranch announced that it was laying off about 400 employees. The company said the virus impacted its hen population at some farms in Ionia County. 

Guidelines issued for Michigan dairy farms

Michigan’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development issued guidelines for producers to help reduce the spread of avian influenza. 

Michigan dairy farms and poultry operations must implement the following, under the order that went into effect on May 8: 

  • Designate a biosecurity manager
  • Designate a line of separation to represent the perimeter of a secure area, limiting access points
  • Establish cleaning and disinfection practices and procedures at those access points for both vehicles and individuals, including deliveries of feed and other supplies, and training for employees
  • Establish a logbook maintaining a record of all vehicles and of individuals who have gotten out of vehicles and crossed those access points, to be retained and made available for examination upon request by MDARD.  

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