PROMO 64J1 Animal - Chicken Hen - Wikimedia

Texas officials address human avian flu case

Freda Ross

Click play to listen to this article.

Audio file

(Texas News Service) The cattle industry and health officials in Texas are on alert after a person contracted avian flu while working around infected cattle in the Texas Panhandle.

According to the Department of State Health Services, the patient was diagnosed with bird flu after experiencing eye inflammation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the diagnosis.

PROMO 64J1 Map - States Texas - iStock - klenger

© iStock - klenger

Dr. Varun Shetty, chief epidemiologist for the Texas Department of State Health Services, said symptoms of avian flu can range from mild to severe.

"Severe illness in humans, in history, has included severe outcomes, like pneumonia and even death," Shetty pointed out. "In this case, this individual presented really just with eye irritation -- something that we call conjunctivitis -- which is not typical for the seasonal flu."

Shetty stressed the person is being treated with antibiotics and is doing well. The first cases of bird flu in cattle were discovered in the Panhandle in March. Texas is one of five states reporting cases of the virus in cattle.

Health officials say it is very rare for the avian flu to spread between humans and the risk to the public is low. Workers in the cattle industry have been told to wear goggles and other protective gear while working with sick animals.

Shetty noted the health department is working closely with other agencies to protect the public and ensure the outbreak does not affect dairy products.

"Pasteurized milk products that you buy in the stores are safe to consume," Shetty emphasized. "There's a rigorous process to make sure that the milk that is sold in stores goes through the steps necessary to make it safe."

The Texas case is the second instance of bird flu reported in humans in the U.S. A Colorado man contracted the virus in 2022 after being exposed to infected poultry.