April 19, 2024

WHO sounds alarm on potential spread of bird flu

Editor's Note

The World Health Organization (WHO) is sounding the alarm about the rise of the bird flu virus—H5N1—and the threat it poses to humans, Medical Xpress reported on April 18.

Experts are concerned because the bird flu has recently spread from wild birds and poultry to cows and goats last month, animals who were not thought to be at risk. As the virus evolves to infect mammals, they say it becomes more likely that it will gain the ability to infect humans and spread. 

In cases where humans have been infected via animal contact, the virus has a very high mortality rate. A total of 463 people have died since 2023 until April 1, 2024, out of 889 human cases in 23 cases—a 52% fatality rate. In the US, there have been two cases thus far—including a person in Texas, now recovering, who was exposed via dairy cattle. 

With the virus’ spread to mammals, experts say it's increasingly important to monitor infections carefully and ensure proper diagnosis, and noted that there are efforts underway to develop vaccines and treatments for H5N1 in order to be prepared. 

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