Second human case of bird flu confirmed in Michigan, bringing total this year to three

Written by on May 31, 2024

Yuichiro Chino/Getty Images

(LANSING, Mich.) — A second human case of bird flu has been confirmed in Michigan, bringing the total number of cases in the U.S. this year to three, health officials said.

The most recent case in Michigan is in a farmworker who was exposed to cows infected with bird flu, also known as avian flu, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).

The patient works on a different dairy farm than the first confirmed Michigan case, which was reported on May 22.

Health officials said the patient was given antiviral medications and is recovering from respiratory symptoms.

The Michigan cases come after the first case was confirmed in Texas in April.

However, the risk to the general public remains low, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There is currently no evidence of human-to-human transmission,

MDHHS said farmworkers exposed to infected animals were asked to report symptoms, even if they’re mild.

“With the first case in Michigan, eye symptoms occurred after a direct splash of infected milk to the eye,” Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, chief medical executive, said in a statement. “With this case, respiratory symptoms occurred after direct exposure to an infected cow. Neither individual was wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE). This tells us that direct exposure to infected livestock poses a risk to humans, and that PPE is an important tool in preventing spread among individuals who work on dairy and poultry farms.”

MDHHS said it recommends seasonal flu vaccination for people working on poultry or dairy farms. The vaccine will not prevent bird flu infection, but can reduce the risk of coinfection with avian and flu viruses.

In early March, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a bird flu strain that had sickened millions of birds across the U.S. was identified in several mammals this year.

At the time, three states had reported cases of bird flu in mammals in 2024, including striped skunks found in Washington state, a mountain lion in Montana and a raccoon in Kentucky.

A few weeks later, federal and state public health officials said they were investigating an illness among primarily older dairy cows in Kansas, New Mexico and Texas and causing symptoms including decreased lactation and low appetite.

The USDA said in a statement at the time that “there is no concern about the safety of the commercial milk supply or that this circumstance poses a risk to consumer health.”

Several dairy cows have been infected, resulting in milk samples showing inactive remnants of the virus, but health officials say the food supply is safe.

Last week, the CDC said in a summary on Friday that it is preparing for the “possibility of increased risk to human health” from bird flu as a part of the federal government’s preparedness efforts.

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