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The Wall Street Journal: Colorado man tests positive for contagious bird flu

A person in Colorado tested positive for a version of avian influenza, federal officials said, marking the first known human case in the U.S. of a bird flu that has ravaged poultry flocks for months.

The unidentified person had direct contact with poultry and was working to destroy birds believed to have a version of H5N1 bird flu, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday. The person’s only symptom was fatigue, the agency said. An earlier case in December in the U.K. was in an asymptomatic person who also had contact with infected birds.

The CDC said it believes the risk to the general public is low. It said it is possible that the positive test was the result of surface contamination. Other people also involved in the same bird-destroying operation in Colorado have tested negative but are being retested out of caution, the CDC said.

Health authorities are on guard because this strain has hit tens of millions of birds, from commercial flocks to wild birds, in at least 34 states. The rapidly spreading bird flu, the worst in seven years, has killed at least 11 million egg-laying chickens among other birds and driven up U.S. egg prices.

While H5N1 infections among people are rare, they are possible when people are exposed to enough virus. Infected birds shed virus in their saliva, mucus and feces, posing a potential risk for people in close contact with them.

An expanded version of this post appears on WSJ.com.

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