A person in Texas has tested positive for bird flu, officials have confirmed — amid alarm over the disease spilling over into humans.

The patient, who has not been named, was working on a dairy farm in the state and had contact with cows infected with the virus.

The individual is suffering from eye inflammation, their only symptom, and has already been isolated and treated with an antiviral for flu.

Officials say the risk to the general public from bird flu is still low, although the case has alarmed experts — who fear a worst-case scenario of the disease spreading to and then starting to spread between humans.

There are also no concerns over the safety of commercial milk at this time, officials say, because milk is pasteurized — which inactivates viruses and bacteria.

Person in Texas infected with bird flu (cattle, stock image)

Tests revealed that an unknown number of cows have tested positive for bird flu Type A H5N1 in Texas, Kansas and New Mexico. Iowa is currently ‘monitoring the situation’ as it is also a dairy-heavy state. It comes after a goat in Minnesota tested positive last week. Bird flu has also been found in foxes, bobcats, striped skunks, raccoons and coyotes since the 2022 outbreak

They add that milk from sickly animals is also diverted and destroyed to ensure it never enters the human supply chain.

The individual was infected with H5N1 bird flu — which has led to tens of millions of chickens being slaughtered in the US over the last two years.

It has already been detected among mammals including seals — where it has decimated colonies — and farm animals such as goats, with this latest infection a sign the virus is creeping closer to causing an outbreak among people.

Experts say that the longer a virus is around in mammals undetected, the more chance it has to acquire a mutation that allows it to infect people more easily.

The CDC said the risk to the public remained ‘low’, but also urged doctors to be mindful of potential cases among patients.

The agency added in a statement: ‘People with close or prolonged, unprotected exposures to infected birds or other animals (including livestock), or to environments contaminated by infected birds or other animals, are at greater risk of infection.’

Dr Bill Schaffner, an infectious diseases expert at Vanderbilt University, Tennessee, told DailyMail.com that on rare occasions bird flu viruses can infect other animals and humans.

‘This happens periodically with humans, but you rarely get human-to-human transmission,’ he said.

‘The genetic part of the virus that would allow it to transmit readily from human-to-human is still missing.’ 

Senator Cory Booker, a Democrat for New Jersey, said the case was ‘very concerning’.

He added: ‘Another example of the pandemic risk from factory farms.’

The case comes after a person was hospitalized with swine flu in Pennsylvania last month — in the first case of the year — after being infected with the H1N2 strain that commonly spreads among pigs.

And after an inmate who was working on a poultry farm tested positive for H5N1 bird flu in 2022, in a case that also caused alarm among experts.

The individual has since recovered, with his only symptoms reported as ‘fatigue for a few days’. They did not pass on the virus to others. 

Like all flus, the virus is spread primarily through droplets in the air which are breathed in or get into a person’s mouth, eyes or nose

Dairy farm workers were already on high alert for bird flu after infections were reported in herds across Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma.

There are also reports of the virus affecting dairy cows in New Mexico while Iowa — which has a large dairy industry — is monitoring the situation.

Farmers first noticed cows falling ill three weeks ago with symptoms of lethargy and loss of appetite, and then producing less milk. Milk and nasal swabs then tested positive for the virus.

Texas Department of Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller said: ‘We hadn’t seen anything like it before. It was kind of like they had a cold.’

USDA officials believe the cattle were infected by wild birds suffering from the virus, which could have happened via exposure to the bird’s feces or oral secretions.

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