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Bird Flu Found in Colorado Man but Risk to Humans Is Low, CDC Says

The public health risk from the H5N1 avian flu remains low, says the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Carrie Mihalcik Senior Editor / News
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Carrie Mihalcik
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In a lab environment, two hands in purple latex gloves carefully manipulate a test kit on what looks like a stainless steel countertop.

A microbiologist tests poultry samples for avian influenza.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

A man in Colorado has tested positive for the H5N1 avian flu, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health officials said Thursday. The man, who's younger than 40 and an inmate at a state correctional facility, had direct exposure to infected poultry at a commercial farm in western Colorado. 

The CDC and the Colorado Department of Public Health said the risk to the public remains low. The man is largely asymptomatic but is receiving treatment per CDC guidelines and is being kept away from others. 

According to the CDC, this is the second human case "associated with this specific group of H5 viruses," and the first case in the US. H5N1 is the predominant bird flu virus in the world, but it remains rare in humans. 

"We want to reassure Coloradans that the risk to them is low," said Dr. Rachel Herlihy, epidemiologist with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, in a release. 

Since the virus was detected in wild birds and poultry in the US in late 2021 into 2022, the CDC has been monitoring for illness among people exposed to H5N1 infected birds. Of the 2,500 people tracked, this is the only case found to date, the agency said. 

There aren't any known cases of this current H5 flu virus spreading among people, according to health officials. The spreading of earlier H5N1 viruses between people was "very rare" and didn't lead to "sustained person-to-person spread," the CDC said. 

Following guidance from US and Colorado agriculture officials, the affected flock was "euthanized and disposed," according to the Colorado Department of Public Health release. 

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.