Highly Lethal Bird Flu Spreads to Mammals, Raising Pandemic Fears – WHO


The World Health Organization (WHO) is sounding the alarm about a highly lethal strain of bird flu (H5N1) currently circulating among poultry and, worryingly, now infecting mammals. This development raises concerns about the potential for a human pandemic.

The outbreak, which began in 2020, has already devastated poultry populations worldwide. Now, the virus is jumping species, with recent cases detected in domestic cattle in the US. This “spillover” to mammals significantly increases the risk of transmission to humans, according to the WHO.

“This remains an enormous concern,” stated Dr. Jeremy Farrar, the WHO’s chief scientist. He highlighted the “extraordinarily high” mortality rate of H5N1 in humans, who lack natural immunity to the virus.

The recent case of a human infected through contact with infected cattle in Texas underscores this risk. Historically, of the few hundred human infections documented through animal contact, over half have been fatal.

Farrar emphasized the urgency of increased surveillance. Understanding the number of human infections is crucial, as these events can be breeding grounds for mutations that enable human-to-human transmission.

Efforts are underway to develop vaccines and treatments for H5N1. Additionally, the WHO is urging regional and national health authorities to bolster their diagnostic capabilities. This would allow for a swift global response in the event of human-to-human transmission.

Farrar stressed the need for equitable access to these resources, ensuring all countries are prepared to combat a potential H5N1 pandemic.

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