WHO sounds alarm over human cases of bird flu, says ‘looking for new hosts’ | World News - Hindustan Times

WHO sounds alarm over human cases of bird flu, says ‘looking for new hosts’

Apr 18, 2024 04:23 PM IST

The World Health Organization said that A (H5N1) strain has become "a global zoonotic animal pandemic".

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday expressed grave concern over the growing spread of H5N1 bird flu infections in other species, including humans.

A highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza, known as H5N1, is sweeping through a new species in the US. (REPRESENTATIVE PHOTO)
A highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza, known as H5N1, is sweeping through a new species in the US. (REPRESENTATIVE PHOTO)

"This remains I think an enormous concern," WHO's chief scientist Jeremy Farrar told reporters in Geneva.

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With cows and goats joining the list of mammals infected with the current bird flu outbreak that began in 2020, the UN health agency official referred to it as "a global zoonotic animal pandemic."

“The great concern of course is that in... infecting ducks and chickens and then increasingly mammals, that virus now evolves and develops the ability to infect humans and then critically the ability to go from human to human,” Farrar said.

Read: ‘100 times worse than Covid pandemic’: Experts on risk of H5N1 bird flu outbreak

While there is no evidence that the influenza A(H5N1) virus is spreading among humans, the 'extraordinarily high' mortality rate in the hundreds of cases where humans have been infected through contact with animals has been a matter of concern.

In the last 15 months, the UN agency has recorded 463 deaths from 889 human cases across 23 states, putting the mortality rate at a worrying 52 per cent.

Read: Bird flu reported in Kerala's Alapuzzha. How to stay safe?

The strain of bird flu that has killed millions of wild birds in recent years has been detected in a range of mammals over the last few years, but this is the first time it has been found in cattle, with eight US states finding the highly pathogenic avian influenza in a dairy herd.

When "you come into the mammalian population, then you're getting closer to humans," Farrar said, warning that "this virus is just looking for new, novel hosts".

Bird flu in Kerala

A bird flu outbreak has been reported in two places in the Alappuzha district of Kerala. Officials said the H5N1 avian influenza was confirmed in ducks reared in an area of ward 1 of Edathva Grama Panchayat and another area in ward 3 of Cheruthana Grama Panchayat. The infection was confirmed after the samples of the ducks showing symptoms of bird flu were sent to a lab in Bhopal for testing.

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