LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) — Michigan has unexpectedly become the epicenter of the H5N1 bird flu, affecting not just turkeys and chickens, but wild birds, cows, and even humans. With 24 dairy cattle herd outbreaks across 10 counties and accounting for two of the three U.S. farm workers infected, Michigan has more cases than any other state. 

On May 30, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a second Michigan farm worker had been diagnosed with bird flu, confirming that the outbreak has progressed from a poultry issue to a broader multi-species concern.

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“The main reason we’re detecting more infection is because we’re doing very good surveillance,” Dr. Arnold Monto, an emeritus professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan, said to the Detroit Free Press. “Other states need to do the same … It’s being missed.”

The virus, first detected in Texas, found its way to Michigan in March via infected cows. Tim Boring, Michigan’s Agriculture Director, promptly responded on May 1 with stringent biosecurity measures for all Michigan farms, including limited access to animal areas and rigorous cleaning protocols.

According to the Detroit Free Press, Boring said: “We likely have a multifactorial transmission matrix going on of how the virus spreads from dairy farm to dairy farm. We’re getting a better handle on it every day, and we’re continuing to lead across the country of what the response looks like.”

The human cases, thankfully mild so far, reveal the potential dangers faced by farm workers. Both Michigan patients experienced symptoms after direct contact with infected cows without proper protective gear.

“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,” Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan’s chief medical executive, said in a statement.

The first patient developed symptoms after a splash of infected milk hit his eye, while the second experienced respiratory issues after exposure to an infected cow.

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In response to the outbreak, the CDC is ramping up its surveillance efforts, ensuring local labs test more samples and extending flu-related hospitalization reporting. Their goal is clear: control the outbreak to prevent human-to-human transmission and more severe cases.

Despite the rising numbers, Bagdasarian reassured the public: “We have not seen signs of sustained human-to-human transmission, and the current health risk to the general public remains low.”