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8 Jul 2024

Kristina Fullerton Rico & William D. Lopez, Bridge Michigan (USA)

USA: Michigan farmworkers exposed to new bird flu strain as employers reportedly fail to provide legally-mandated PPE amid outbreak


"To stop bird flu, Michigan must protect farmworkers,"

Experts are sounding the alarm: Michigan is “ground zero” for the bird flu crisis in the United States. H5N1, as the strain is officially known, is a highly contagious form of avian influenza that has been spreading in chickens and turkeys for years and recently made the jump to cows and other mammals –– including humans...

And policies that leave farmworkers behind are putting Michiganders –– and the whole country –– at risk.

There is evidence that bird flu is already spreading from person to person...

In light of this news, Michigan should protect farmworkers in order to prevent a wider bird flu outbreak. We can do this by using the proven strategies of providing testing, personal protective equipment (PPE), medical care, and paid sick leave to workers who handle livestock and poultry. 

Farmworkers are on the frontlines of the bird flu outbreak. Protecting farmworkers would limit the initial point of contact and transmissibility. It isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s a smart strategy to prevent another pandemic.

Though state and federal law require farm owners to provide PPE — like masks, gloves, face shields, and goggles — farmworkers across the state have told advocacy groups that they’re not receiving any. Recognizing the danger that lack of PPE poses, groups like the United Farm Workers Foundation have urged the Michigan Farm Bureau to take the issue seriously...