ALERT: Second Human Case of H5N1 Bird Flu Reported, Raises Pandemic Concerns

Second Human Case of H5N1 Bird Flu
Second Human Case of H5N1 Bird Flu. Credit | Getty images

United States: The World Health Organization (WHO) has raised the alarm owing to the rising and spreading infection of H5N1 bird flu to more species, including humans, who are also facing an “extraordinarily high” brunt mortality rate.

Jeremy Farrar, the UN health agency’s chief scientist, said while interviewing in Geneva, “This remains, I think, an enormous concern,” as reported.

More about the spreading of a bird flu outbreak

Visual Representation. Credit | REUTERS

Since 2020, the bird flu outbreak has continuously been spreading and has led to the deaths of tens of millions of poultry. Wild birds, as well as land and marine mammals, are also infected and continue spreading it.

Cows, and goats aswell entered list last month that was rather unexpected for experts as they did not anticipate that they got to be prone to this sort of infection.

Farrar added the A (H5N1) strain has become “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,” he added.

However, so far no evidence in place to conclude firmly that the influenza A(H5N1) virus is spreading among humans.

However, Farrar added that in hundreds of cases where humans have been found to be infected via contact with animals, “the mortality rate is extraordinarily high,” as reported.

As per the WHO report, from 2003 until April 1, 2024, a total of 463 deaths have been reported from 889 human cases in 23 countries, making the mortality rate 52 percent high.

Bird Flu in Human Cases in the US

In the US, as per the official reports earlier this month, a person has been reportedly infected with bird flu after being exposed to dairy farm cattle, where he was a worker.

However, it is only the second reported case of a human contracting the bird flu inside the country, and it came after the virus sickened herds that appear to have been exposed to wild birds in other parts of the country including the states of Kansas, Texas and some other states.

The WHO declared that this also appears to be the first time a human was infected with virus strain A(H5N1) of influenza A through a contact with a mammal.

Farrar added that when “you come into the mammalian population, then you’re getting closer to humans,” there is a warning that “this virus is just looking for new, novel hosts”. And, “It’s a real concern.”

Need for an improvement in monitoring the infection spread – Expert

As per Farrar, there is a need to beef up monitoring, and it was “very important understanding how many human infections are happening… because that’s where adaptation (of the virus) will happen”.

“It’s a tragic thing to say, but if I get infected with H5N1 and I die, that’s the end of it. If I go around the community and I spread it to somebody else, then you start the cycle,” he added.

The efforts towards the development of vaccines and therapeutics for H5N1 are in progress, to which Farrar added that there is a need to make sure the regional and national health authorities of the world identify the capacity to diagnose the virus.

Farrar said this is required to be done as “if H5N1 did come across to humans, with human-to-human transmission”, the world would be “in a position to immediately respond”, thereby urging equitable access to vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.