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Colorado man first in U.S. to test positive for bird flu

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News Brief

A Colorado man who was culling poultry with suspected bird flu has tested positive for the disease. It’s the first-known human case in the nation, but officials say the risk to the public is low.

Health officials detected H5N1 influenza – known as avian flu – in the nose of a 40-year-old man who was culling the chickens in Montrose County as part of a prison pre-release work program.

When they tested him a second time, though, he was negative for the virus. Officials say a piece of the virus may have gotten in his nose from the chickens and was picked up by the first test, but he wasn't actually infected by it. The man is largely asymptomatic and on antiviral drugs.

Officials say human infections with avian flu are rare and there is a low risk of person-to-person spread. But they urge people to avoid birds that appear ill or are dead.

Poultry is safe to eat because cooking the meat to an internal temperature of 165° F kills bacteria and viruses, including H5N1.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

As KUNC’s rural and small communities reporter, I help further the newsroom’s efforts to ensure that all of Northern Colorado’s communities are heard.