Don’t panic just yet.
The COVID pandemic might finally be over, according to Dr. Fauci, so the last thing I’m interested in hearing about this week is another public health crisis that could throw a wrench in my Booty Thumping Boi summer. That’s why news of a Colorado man who caught a strain of the bird flu last week definitely shook me a little.
The incarcerated man who got infected was taking part in a pre-release employment program. Last week, he had been working in a commercial farm where several chickens were infected with the highly contagious H5 bird flu, reported CNN. He is currently the first human to test positive for H5 in the U.S. and the second in the world after a U.K. resident tested positive last December. What’s particularly spooky about the bird flu compared to other viruses is that when it does make its way into the human population — which, by the way, happens pretty rarely and is usually containable — the death rate can be up to 60%, per the National Institutes of Health.
Even when the bird flu doesn’t jump over to humans, it can still cause economic devastation; after this recent outbreak, millions of chickens and turkeys were killed, raising poultry prices across the country, per NBC. A small outbreak in China in 2013 led to 36 deaths and cost the government $6.5 billion. “Any time you’re dealing with H5N1, you sleep with one eye open,” Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Diseases Research and Policy, told STAT News.
Once the man in Colorado tested positive, he was placed in isolation and treated with oseltamivir, an antiviral drug. He was asymptomatic for the most part, except for some fatigue and has since recovered, per the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment.
There are currently no other known cases of a human H5 infection and the risk of a real human outbreak is low. Case in point: Despite the fact that thousands of birds across 29 states contracted the virus, only one person has tested positive so far. On top of that, the CDC isn’t entirely certain that the man actually contracted the bird flu; it’s also possible that the virus was lingering in his nose and that the only contamination that happened was surface level. They also reminded us that if we ever come across a really sick looking bird, to avoid touching it at all costs, which is pretty self explanatory.