COLORADO SPRINGS, Co. (KRDO) -- This week, H5 Influenza, otherwise known as avian flu (Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, HPAI) was detected in a person who was working on a Colorado farm with infected poultry.
While the risk of spreading to other humans is low, the uncertainty and stress are leading the state to offer free resources for agricultural or rural workers with anxiety surrounding the situation.
"When your entire flock can get decimated within just a few days, it becomes a high anxiety and high stress environment for anyone who owns birds," said Olga Robak, Communications Director for the Colorado Department of Agriculture.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has been monitoring and testing people exposed to poultry and wild birds infected with avian flu. HPAI is a highly contagious and deadly foreign animal disease in domestic poultry.
State health officials say the positive test result is due to direct exposure to infected poultry at a commercial farm in Montrose County.
The adult male who tested positive is younger than 40 and officials say is largely asymptomatic. He is now isolating and receiving the influenza antiviral drug oseltamivir (Tamiflu) per CDC guidance.
“We want to reassure Coloradans that the risk to them is low,” said Dr. Rachel Herlihy, state epidemiologist, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Those experiencing stress or anxiety about avian flu can call Colorado Crisis Services at 1-844-493-255 or text “TALK” to 38255.
Members of agricultural and rural communities can also get a voucher for six free sessions with an ag-friendly, licensed behavioral health professional.
"This current situation is really challenging for a variety of people, whether that's agricultural workers or commercial operators, and we recognize that those individuals may need some extra help right now," said Dr. Herlihy.
The available therapists were hand picked to help with agricultural related challenges.
"It really takes a specialized type of person to understand what farmers and ranchers are going through," said Robak. "These sessions are led specifically with providers who are competent in providing counseling to ag workers and ag producers."
More information and a list of available providers can be found at caamhpforhealth.org.
Bird Flu is not only found in commercial poultry operations. Backyard flocks can also spread the virus, and the USDA confirms at least two backyard flocks in Colorado have had avian flu.
"We know that backyard flocks are certainly going to be a place where there is increased risk, as birds are oftentimes outdoors and there can be mixing of wild birds and domestic birds," said Dr. Herlihy. "That is really a higher risk situation."
For information on how to protect your flock, click here.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the case in Colorado is the second human case associated with this specific group of H5 viruses that are currently predominant and the first case in the United States.
The first case internationally occurred in December 2021 in the United Kingdom in a person who did not have any symptoms and who raised birds that became infected with the H5N1 virus.