A second human case of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) (bird flu) was reported by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) yesterday (Wednesday, May 22) in the state of Michigan, in the United States.

The person infected is a worker on a dairy farm where bird flu had been identified in the cows. The individual was being monitored because of their exposure to the infected cattle.

The person reported their symptoms to the local health officials, and two specimens were collected from the patient. The nasal swab tested negative for influenza, however, the eye swab tested positive for the virus.

The CDC has been watching influenza surveillance systems closely, particularly in affected states, and there has been no sign of unusual influenza activity in people, including in syndromic surveillance.

Attempts to sequence the virus in the clinical specimen are underway and will be made available within one to two days, if successful.

Additional genetic analysis will look for any changes to the virus that could alter the agency’s risk assessment.

The CDC recommends the following:

  • People should avoid unprotected exposures to sick or dead animals, including wild birds, poultry, other domesticated birds, and domesticated cows;
  • People should also avoid unprotected exposures to animal faeces, bedding (litter), unpasteurised milk, or materials that have been touched by animals with suspected or confirmed A(H5N1) virus;
  • CDC has updated recommendations for worker protection and use of personal protective equipment (PPE);
  • Following these recommendations is central to reducing a person’s risk and containing the overall public health risk.

Conjunctivitis (eye infection) has been associated with previous human infections with bird flu, and is part of the current CDC case definition for A(H5N1) surveillance.

It is not known by the CDC how eye infections result from avian influenza exposures, but it may be from touching the eyes with something contaminated with the virus.