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An inmate of a prison in Colorado has tested positive for bird flu, officials have confirmed.
This is the first known case in the United States since the current outbreak of the virus started. The risk to the public is low, according to state health officials, because it’s fairly rare to see human-to-human transmission of H5N1 avian flu.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) said that the male inmate was working on a pre-release programme at a poultry farm in Montrose County, which is where he came into contact with the infected birds.
Avian flu is not easily transmitted between birds and humans but can be if there is extended contact.
Following a nasal swab test, the case was confirmed on Thursday by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
So far, no other cases of the human strain of the virus have been confirmed.
The CDC said: “This positive result is due to direct exposure to infected poultry at a commercial farm in Montrose County.
“The person, who is an inmate at a state correctional facility in Delta County, was working with poultry as part of a pre-release employment program where participants have the opportunity to work for private employers and be paid a prevailing wage.”
The inmate who has tested positive is said to be ‘younger than 40’ and is asymptomatic, suffering only with fatigue. He is currently quarantining until he no longer has the virus.
The CDPH said the affected flock of poultry was ‘euthanised and disposed of’.
Dr Rachel Herlihy, the state epidemiologist from the CDPHE said: “We want to reassure Coloradans that the risk to them is low.
“I am grateful for the seamless collaboration between CDC, Department of Corrections, Department of Agriculture, and CDPHE, as we continue to monitor this virus and protect all Coloradans.”
The inmate is the second person worldwide to have contracted the human strain of the avian flu, following a man in the UK who had also been in close contact with infected birds in January.
In order to keep away from the virus, officials advise that people should avoid birds that are dead or seem sick, as well as staying away from bird faeces.
The CDC advice continues: “If you must handle sick or dead poultry, wear gloves and wash your hands with soap and water afterwards.
“If possible, wear respiratory protection such as a medical facemask and eye protection such as goggles.”
The guidance adds: “It is safe to eat properly handled and cooked poultry and poultry products in the United States.
“The proper handling and cooking of poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165˚F kills bacteria and viruses, including H5N1 viruses.”
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