April 24, 2024

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Avian flu: WHO fears virus could ‘easily’ adapt to humans

Avian flu: WHO fears virus could ‘easily’ adapt to humans

The World Health Organization on Wednesday expressed concern that increasing cases of bird flu in mammals could help the virus spread “more easily” to humans.

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“Bird flu viruses are usually transmitted among birds, but increasing cases of H5N1 bird flu in mammals — which are biologically closer to humans than birds — raise concerns that the virus could easily infect humans,” the WHO said in a statement.

The warning – signed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (WHO) – calls on the organizations to work together to “save and protect the greatest number of animals”. population”.

Since its emergence in 1996, the H5N1 avian influenza virus has caused seasonal epizootics.

But according to the WHO, since 2020, this variant of the virus has caused an unprecedented number of deaths among wild birds and poultry in many countries in Africa, Asia and Europe.

The virus spread to North America in 2021 and Central and South America in 2022.

These epizootics correspond to mass die-offs of wild birds and slaughter of tens of thousands of chickens.

“There has been a recent paradigm shift in the ecology and epidemiology of avian influenza, which has raised concerns worldwide,” Dr. Gregorio Torres, OMSA’s chief scientific officer, said in a Wednesday press release.

The disease has spread to new areas and caused unusual mortality in wild birds, as well as “an alarming increase in the number of cases in mammals,” he notes.

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Track and find out

All three organizations are concerned that some mammals may act as “mixing reservoirs” for influenza viruses, leading to the emergence of new viruses that are even more dangerous to animals and humans.

Recently, they say, deadly outbreaks in mammals have been on the rise.

Since 2022, 10 countries on three continents have reported outbreaks of OMSA in marine and land mammals, but the organizations believe that outbreaks in other countries have not yet been detected or reported.

Bird flu has so far been detected in at least 26 species of mammals, including domesticated mink and seals, but also in domestic animals such as cats and dogs.

According to the WHO, human infections can cause severe disease with high mortality. Human cases detected so far are mainly the result of close contact with infected birds or contaminated environments.

“Based on the information available so far, the virus does not appear to be easily transmissible from person to person, but we must be vigilant to detect any evolution of the virus that could change this,” said Dr. Sylvie Bryant, President said. Pandemic and Pandemic Preparedness and Prevention at WHO.

“We encourage all countries to improve their capacity to monitor these viruses and detect any human diseases. This is especially important as the virus is now affecting countries with little experience in bird flu surveillance”, he continues.