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Colorado Inmate Becomes First US Citizen Diagnosed With Avian Flu

Published: April 29, 2022
Microbiologist Anne Vandenburg-Carroll tests poultry samples collected from a farm located in a control area for the presence of avian influenza, or bird flu, at the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on March 24, 2022 in Madison, Wisconsin. A Colorado inmate has been confirmed to be the first U.S. citizen to contract Bird Flu. (Image: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

According to a press release issued on April 28 by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) a Colorado inmate who was working at a poultry farm as part of a pre-release employment program has become the first U.S. citizen to be diagnosed with avian flu also known as H5N1 flu. 

The inmate, from a state correctional facility in Delta County, who is under the age of 40, was involved in culling poultry that were presumed to be infected with the virus. 

Colorado health officials obtained a single nasal specimen from the man and the positive result was later confirmed by the CDC on April 27.

According to the CDC, the inmate was asymptomatic, but reported feeling fatigue for a few days. He has since recovered however is currently isolating and is being treated with the antiviral drug tamiflu. 

The man has since tested negative for influenza after repeated testing. Colorado officials said, “Because the person was in close contact with infected poultry, the virus may have been in the person’s nose without causing infection.” The CDC conceded that it was possible the detection of the avian flu could also be as a result of surface contamination. 

Health officials are insisting that there is little risk to the general public and, so far, there is no evidence that the virus can spread from person to person. 

Dr. Rachel Herlihy, state epidemiologist for the CDPHE said in a statement, “We want to reassure Coloradans that the risk to them is low.”

Avian Flu spreads to 29 states

According to the latest report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture avian flu has been detected in both commercial and domestic flocks in some 29 states and the disease has been detected in wild birds in 34 states.

In excess of 2,500 people, who have had direct exposure to infected animals, have been tested for avian flu, all of which have tested negative, according to the CDC. 

Avian flu among people is extremely rare however direct exposure to an infected animal dramatically increases the risk of infection. The first confirmed case of avian flu was detected in an asymptomatic patient in the United Kingdom who had been raising birds that became infected. 

At present officials say it is safe to eat eggs or poultry however continue to advise the proper handling and cooking of poultry products.

Health officials are asking that owners or handlers monitor their flocks for signs of bird flu, which include fatigue and no interest in feeding. 

People are recommended to avoid contact with poultry or birds that appear ill or are dead as well as to avoid contact with surfaces that appear to be contaminated with feces from either wild or domestic birds. 

Should someone be required to handle sick or dead birds they are advised to wear gloves and to wash their hands with soap and water following contact.