Houston/ Health & Lifestyle
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Published on June 11, 2024
Bird Flu Virus H5N1 Detected in Houston Area Wastewater, No Human Cases ReportedSource: Unsplash/ Zachariah Smith

As public health officials continue to closely monitor the spread of diseases, the detection of the bird flu virus, H5N1, in the greater Houston area's wastewater has raised concerns. Harris County Public Health confirmed to ABC13 that the virus was found in samples dated between March 1 and May 13, but emphasized there have been no human cases reported. They speculate that the source of H5N1 in the wastewater is probably linked to agriculture and maintain that the public health risk remains low.

The bird flu's presence in wastewater does not necessarily to suggest there are people infected in our communities. Chris Van Deusen of the Texas Department of State Health Services elaborated in an interview with Rosie Nguyen of ABC13, explaining that the PCR tests used in wastewater detection pick up fragments of a virus's genetic material, which doesn't necessarily mean the live virus is present. One potential scenario outlined by Van Deusen is the pasteurized milk from an infected cow being poured down the drain and ending up in wastewater systems.

In a similar vein, Click2Houston reported that while no human cases have been detected thus far, the Harris County Public Health maintains vigilance. They have issued alerts through the Houston Area Health Alert Network and are monitoring for any potential human cases with the help of their Office of Epidemiology, Surveillance, and Emerging Diseases.

Proper precautionary measures cannot be overstated, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that individuals should try to avoid exposure to potentially contaminated animals or materials. This includes wearing recommended personal protective equipment (PPE) in work situations that may bring them into close contact with infected birds or animals. As for the general public, the CDC advises against consumption of raw milk, as pasteurization is effective in killing viruses such as A(H5N1).