The Colorado prison is testing positive for H5N1 bird flu, health officials say

A man from Colorado has tested positive for bird flu, also known as H5N1 flu. The man, who is younger than 40 and an inmate at a state criminal facility in Delta County, is largely asymptomatic, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said Thursday, adding that the risk to the public is low.

The man tested positive as a result of direct exposure to infected poultry on a commercial farm in Montrose County, according to the Department of Health. He worked with poultry as part of a pre-release employment program, “where participants have the opportunity to work for private employers and be paid a valid salary.”

The infected man only reported feeling tired and has since recovered, according to a statement from the CDC. He isolates and receives the antiviral flu drug oseltamivir, commonly known as tamiflu, according to the CDC guidelines.

On the advice of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Colorado Department of Agriculture, “officials killed and disposed of the affected flock.”

Health authorities said the H5N1 flu is unlikely to spread to other people, as bird viruses do not normally infect humans, nor do they spread from person to person. No cases of this H5N1 influenza spreading among humans have been reported and there are no other confirmed human cases in Colorado or the United States, officials said. The CDC said the spread of previous H5N1 viruses between humans “has occurred very rarely and has not led to sustained spread from person to person.”

The CDC said in a statement Thursday that it has been monitoring bird flu in the United States since the end of 2021. H5N1 has been detected in commercial birds and backyard birds in 29 states and in wild birds in 34 states.

The only other known human case was reported in the United Kingdom in December 2021, according to the CDC.

“We want to assure Coloradans that the risk to them is low,” said Dr. Rachel Herlihy, state epidemiologist at the Ministry of Health, in a statement. “I am grateful for the smooth cooperation between the CDC, the Department of Corrections, the Department of Agriculture and the CDPHE, as we continue to monitor this virus and protect all Coloradans.”

The flu usually spreads among wild birds and poultry when the animals “excrete the flu virus in their saliva, mucus and feces,” the health ministry said.

Health authorities said people should avoid sick or dead birds. Those dealing with sick or dead birds should wear gloves and wash their hands with soap and water.

The health department added that it is safe to eat properly handled and cooked poultry and poultry products. Poultry and eggs must be boiled to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit to kill bacteria and viruses, including H5N1 viruses.

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