Just over two weeks after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration declared an “extraordinary animal health emergency,” her health department confirmed a farm worker has contracted the state’s first case of H5 avian flu in humans.

“The current health risk to the general public remains low,” Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan’s chief medical executive, said in a Wednesday statement. “This virus is being closely monitored, and we have not seen signs of sustained human-to-human transmission at this point.”

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Influenza A, also known as highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), H5N1, or bird flu, was first detected in Michigan’s dairy cattle on March 29, with more cattle testing positive in Montcalm, Ionia, Ottawa, Isabela, Barry, Gratiot Allegan, Ingham, and Clinton counties in the weeks since.

The disease was detected in backyard and commercial poultry in 2022, 2023, and 2024, most recently on May 9, in what has been a national outbreak at both dairy and poultry farms.

The situation prompted the Whitmer administration to declare a “Determination of Extraordinary Emergency” on May 1 to impose what Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Director Tim Boring described as “aggressive action to protect both animal and public health to help reduce the further spread of HPAI in Michigan.”

Those actions included requiring a secure perimeter around facilities, cleaning and disinfection for people and vehicles, a log of all people and vehicles that enter farms, isolation of lactating cows until 30 days after the last HPAI case, and isolation of poultry “until such a time there are no new cases of HPAI in domestic poultry in the State of Michigan for at least 30 consecutive days.”

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The farm worker who tested positive for the disease in Michigan is the second this year, following another in Texas in March, which was the first in the world linked to a dairy outbreak. Another human case in Colorado in 2022 involved a poultry worker depopulating a facility with presumptive bird flu.

In both the Michigan and Texas cases, the worker suffered an eye infection, mild symptoms, and recovered, according to reports from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, New England Journal of Medicine, and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Bagdasarian credited the discovery of the Michigan case to recommendations from officials for farm workers to report even mild symptoms and making tests available. Though state officials will not reveal where or when the human detection occurred, a Wednesday press release said they’re coordinating with federal officials working in Michigan to track the disease.

“Michigan’s response to influenza A has been a one-health approach, working with federal, state and local partners to address animal and public health concerns rapidly,” the statement read. “Three U.S. Department of Agriculture emergency management teams have been on the ground assisting MDARD in day-to-day responses to all impacted poultry facilities statewide. An epidemiological team from USDA is also deployed to further assist in tracing and testing within dairy herds to be able to provide real-time information.”

The MDHHS statement coincided with a MDARD press release the same day highlighting more detections among dairy cattle in Gratiot County. The statement pointed to additional guidance for farmers issued by MDARD on May 3, as well as a fresh list of recommendations.

Those recommendations include isolating incoming and outgoing animals, cleaning and disinfecting clothing, not sharing tools or equipment with other farms, limiting “non-essential visitors,” and providing fresh clothing and footwear for anyone entering a farm.

A separate CDC release stated “based on the information available, (the Michigan human) infection does not change CDC’s current H5N1 bird flu human health risk assessment for the U.S. general public, which the agency considers low.

“However, this development underscores the importance of recommended precautions in people with exposure to infected or potentially infected animals,” it continued. “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.”