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Michigan State University playing important role in state's research of bird flu

Scientists at Michigan State University researching bird flu
Scientists at Michigan State University researching bird flu 01:47

(CBS DETROIT) — Scientists at Michigan State University are searching for more answers on bird flu as the state reported its first human case.

"We need to be able to get a better understanding of how the virus is getting spread from cow to cow and, more importantly, from herd to herd. Because once we understand that, we'll better be able to put in new mitigations to reduce that spread," said Kim Dodd, the director of MSU's Veterinary Diagnostic Lab.

The diagnostic lab plays a crucial role in the research as the state's official testing lab. Scientists are analyzing samples from wild and domestic flocks and testing cattle.

"Our job since the start of the outbreak has been to work closely with state and federal officials to rapidly identify any positive herds or flocks and then to work with them to implement the required surveillance to ensure that we limit, spread, and limit the spread of the outbreak," Dodd said. "It's fair to say that most of us virologists did not expect to detect highly pathogenic avian influenza in dairy cattle and so there's a lot that we have to learn about it."

On Wednesday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced that the virus was detected in a farmworker who was exposed to infected livestock. This is the second human case in the U.S. after a farmworker in Texas was infected.

Dodd said that cattle and humans infected with bird flu do recover.

She recommended not handling wildlife and avoiding drinking unpasteurized milk, but she was clear that the risk to the public remains low. 

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