Avian flu has been detected in wastewater samples in the greater Houston area, but no human cases, according to Harris County Public Health

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) — Avian influenza, or H5N1, has been detected in wastewater in the greater Houston area, Harris County Public Health confirmed to ABC13 Tuesday.

However, HCPH said there are no human cases of the virus in Harris County and the source of the H5N1 in wastewater is unknown.

“The most likely source is linked to agriculture and the public risk remains low,” the HCPH said.

Houston is one of nine Texas cities where the virus was detected in wastewater samples between March 1 and May 13, 2024.

This comes as the city of Austin reported detecting traces of the virus in its wastewater treatment systems.

City officials also said there were no human cases and the risk to the public remained low.

READ MORE: How concerning is it if traces of bird flu are detected in our wastewater treatment systems?

Even though bird flu has been detected in wastewater samples in the Houston area, that does not necessarily mean there are infected people in our communities.

Chris Van Deusen of the Texas Department of State Health Services told ABC13’s Rosie Nguyen on Monday that traces of the dead virus could still be detected in pasteurized milk if it came from a cow with the disease. Avian Flu. If someone pours this milk down the drain, it could end up in wastewater treatment systems.

“Most wastewater testing is done using a test called PCR. This type of research is for fragments of the genetic material of a virus. So it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a live virus,” Van Deusen said. “One thing that could happen here is milk from cows in another part of the state going down the drain.”

He stressed that pasteurized milk from an infected cow poses no risk to humans because pasteurization kills viruses and other bacteria.

The CDC recommends:

  • Avoid exposure to animal feces, bedding (litter), unpasteurized (“raw”) milk, or materials that have been touched by or near birds or other animals infected with virus A (H5N1) suspected or confirmed.
  • Avoid drinking raw milk
  • Take appropriate precautions if you have professional contact with infected or potentially infected birds or other animals. When exposed to one or more infected or potentially infected animals, wear appropriate and recommended personal protective equipment (PPE).

The first human case of bird flu was confirmed in the Texas panhandle two months ago.

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