Can humans catch the bird flu? A look at the latest from the CDC

The bird flu virus, also known as Avian Influenza, has become widespread among wild birds worldwide and recently caused outbreaks in dairy cows and poultry, but is currently considered a low public health risk for people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There has been only three reported human cases of the bird flu in this country dating back to 2022, according to data from the CDC website.

A dairy worker in Texas was exposed to the virus from the cows on a farm in April. On May 22, another human case was detected in Michigan as another dairy worker tested positive from an eye swab after the nasal swab tested negative.

Bird flu symptoms

Both workers were experiencing symptoms in their eyes, such as eye infection. The CDC announced other signs and symptoms of bird flu in humans can range from mild illness, such as eye redness (conjunctivitis) and mild flu-like upper respiratory symptoms, to severe illness like pneumonia resulting in hospitalization or a high fever.

To better control the virus, the CDC constructed a data monitoring page that shows all the people who have been tested and monitored, wastewater surveillance and a map which features the different positive tests in different regions for wild birds, cows and humans.

Americans face new fears over possible impact of bird flu on dairy industry.
Americans face new fears over possible impact of bird flu on dairy industry.

The disease has not spread from person to person yet with the current health risk being low. Because this is a strain humans have never encountered before, and may be contagious, there are concerns about how dangerous this virus can be to people.

Guidelines have been offered to workers for personal protection equipment to reduce exposure to the bird flu for those who deal with live stocks, poultry and dairy farms.

Bird Flu in NJ

This specific strain of bird flu has been documented since the 1990s, but a mutation has caused the disease to be even more contagious as it has spread to the U.S., as well as Europe, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and several areas in Africa.

It is not only spreading among wild birds, but now dairy cows have been reported to be contaminated with the disease. Across nine states, 67 dairy herds have been affected but none in New Jersey. The only state along the East Coast with reported contaminated cows is North Carolina.

Meanwhile, 48 states have had poultry outbreaks with over 92 million infected. Over four million infected chickens needed to be culled in Iowa.

The last chicken flock outbreak in New Jersey was in September of 2023 in Union County where 520 chickens caught the disease at Live Bird Market. Four other flocks that were contaminated occurred in 2022, according to CDC reports.

In New Jersey, 78 wild birds were contaminated with the bird flu dating back from 2022, and most recently three birds from Ocean County were detected with the disease in April.

The CDC recommends people to stay away from wild birds and only view them from a distance. Several other health agencies warn to not drink unpasteurized milk which can put you at risk of the virus. Commercial milk products are deemed as safe as well as milk-based products, such as sour cream.

This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Can humans catch the bird flu? What CDC says about symptoms