BY Jack Davis, The Western JournalFebruary 26, 2023
1 year ago
 | February 26, 2023
1 year ago

Virus Decimating Global Chicken Flocks Jumps to First Human and Leaves Her Dead - Now Someone Else Is Showing Symptoms

In a world still reeling from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the presence of two cases of bird flu – one of them fatal – is making the World Health Organization take notice.

An 11-year-old Cambodian girl has died from the H5N1 virus, while her father is showing symptoms and has tested positive, according to Reuters.

Although bird flu has been around for decades – the last major human outbreak was in Hong Kong in 1997 – concerns are rising because a new strain emerged in 2020. That strain is being blamed for massive numbers of poultry deaths and those of wild birds and has also infected mammals.

"The global H5N1 situation is worrying given the wide spread of the virus in birds around the world and the increasing reports of cases in mammals including humans," Dr. Sylvie Briand, the director of epidemic and pandemic preparedness and prevention for the WHO said.

"WHO takes the risk from this virus seriously and urges heightened vigilance from all countries,” she said.

To put the risk in perspective, Richard Webby, a bird flu expert at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis and WHO adviser, said transmission of the virus among people is “very, very rare, versus a common source of infection,” according to The New York Times.

“The risks from this virus to your average person on the street right now is very low, but it’s not zero. And that’s primarily because there’s just so many more infected birds around right now,” he said.

The WHO is expected to conduct genetic analysis to determine if the ever-changing virus now has mutations that could facilitate its spread among people.

“That should give us a good hint as to whether or not the virus has really jumped one step further,” Dr. Shayan Sharif, an avian immunologist at the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph in Canada, said.

Paul Digard, Chair of Virology at the University of Edinburgh, called the global bird flu situation “unprecedented,” according to Euronews.

“Last winter we had the worst outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in the UK. This year is on track to equal or beat that", he said, noting that the virus that impacted Hong Kong in 1997 never went away.

"That virus was different from all the previous ones in that it could survive in wild birds as a sort of a long-term infection, and that gave it the ability to spread around the world so that that virus or descendants of it have been with us for the last 25 years, he said.

"And the number of outbreaks of that lineage of the virus has been very large indeed. The numbers are higher than they've been in the past. That's probably fair to say," he said.

"It's unprecedented because of the number of those infection numbers that have occurred in poultry and because of the infections that we've seen in wild birds as well, particularly seabirds", he said.

Digard said the world should be vigilant, but not panic.

"You can't say it will never adapt, it'll never change in a way that will cause the next pandemic, but I think it’s very low-risk at the moment," he said.

"I don't think it's low-risk that we'll get another flu pandemic; I think that's the case of when not if. But my guess would be it's not going to be this strain. It'll be something else that catches us by surprise,” he said.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

Written by: Jack Davis, The Western Journal



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