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Risk of bird flu in CT low, despite case in Texas, public health officials say

Journal Inquirer - 4/3/2024

Apr. 3—Connecticut residents face little risk of avian flu, officials say, despite a case reported in Texas this weekend of a person exposed to an infected dairy cow.

Dr. Manisha Juthani, the state's public health commissioner, nonetheless cautioned residents to "remain vigilant" by consuming only pasteurized dairy products and advised those who work with animals to monitor for any signs of illness.

"There has been no indication of animal or human cases in Connecticut, so the risk to people in Connecticut is extremely low," Juthani said Tuesday. "However, if you have regular contact with animals, and particularly ones that may be demonstrating any kind of symptoms ... we want to be highly, highly vigilant right now."

Juthani said officials will monitor the situation carefully and provide updates as they become available.

"Our assessment is that the risk is low, but should that change, we have the things in place to really prepare us for whatever we need to do," she said.

On Monday, state officials in Texas revealed that at least one person has been infected with avian flu, also known as bird flu, apparently as a result of contact with infected cows. The following day, the nation's largest producer of fresh eggs announced it had halted production at a Texas plant after the disease was detected in chickens there.

Cows with the virus have been detected in at least four states: Texas, Kansas, Michigan and New Mexico.

The patient in Texas, whose primary symptom is eye redness, is receiving an antiviral drug and is recovering, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Avian flu is highly rare in humans but can cause symptoms ranging from mild eye redness to severe respiratory infections. The disease is typically transmitted through close contact with an infected animal, not from human to human, officials say.

Bryan Hurlburt, Connecticut's agriculture commissioner, emphasized that there is no evidence of the virus in Connecticut. The Department of Agriculture has urged farmers to increase biosecurity and report any problems to the state, he said.

"We want to assure consumers that based on the information available, there is no concern about the safety of the commercial milk or that this poses a risk for consumer health," Hurlburt said. "Dairy farms follow strict protocols to ensure that only milk from healthy animals enters the food supply for human consumption."

According to the World Health Organization, there have been 887 confirmed cases of human infection across 23 countries since 2003, resulting in 462 deaths.


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