Bird flu infects another Michigan farmer worker amid influenza outbreak in livestock, health department says

A second farm worker in Michigan has been infected with influenza A amid a multi-state outbreak among commercial and private livestock farms. 

The Michigan health department confirmed the individual who was infected was working at a different farm than where the first state case was reported, which was announced on May 22. 

Including the two cases in Michigan, only one other influenza A (H5N1) case has been reported in the U.S. It was confirmed in a worker in Texas who had contact with an infected cattle herd. That same herd is tied to outbreaks of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza that have disrupted the poultry industry in Michigan.  

Despite the two Michigan cases coming from farms with livestock, Influenza A is actually bird flu and typically spreads between migrating flocks. 

In addition to health consequences, an outbreak of influenza can also ripple through local economies as farmers are forced to manage infected herds of chicken and cows.

In the two infected farm workers, the first case suffered eye symptoms after being splashed by infected milk. The second case is reported to have respiratory issues. Both are recovering after being given medicine.

Even with the outbreak, the health department said the risk to the public remains low.

"Neither individual was wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE)," Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, chief medical executive. "This tells us that direct exposure to infected livestock poses a risk to humans, and that PPE is an important tool in preventing spread among individuals who work on dairy and poultry farms. We have not seen signs of sustained human-to-human transmission, and the current health risk to the general public remains low."

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development director advised farm workers to wear personal protective equipment when onsite. 

The health department also encouraged workers to get the seasonal flu vaccine. It won't prevent bird flu, but it can reduce the risk of coinfection with other influenza strains.