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Fears that the H5N1 virus could merge with another virus and become a human pandemic.


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Experts fear that bird flu will mutate and become more dangerous to humans due to an unprecedented outbreak.

The deadly strain of H5N1, which has reached record levels, has jumped from birds to foxes, otters and minks.

This has caused great concern among leading virologists that the deadly pathogen is now one step closer to spreading to humans — an obstacle that has kept it from causing a pandemic until now.

The World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH) has warned that mammals can act as “mixing vessels” for various influenza viruses, potentially releasing a new variant that could be “more harmful” to humans. The H5N1 strain already has a mortality rate of about 50% in humans.

However, fewer than 900 cases of the disease have been identified in humans since the first case in 1997 because it is not easily transmitted from person to person.

In comparison, the death rate for Covid when it first appeared was 3%, and the death rate for Ebola has ranged from 25 to 90% during previous outbreaks.

Since October 2021, an “unprecedented” number of bird flu cases have been reported worldwide.

It has reached new areas and has had a “devastating impact” on animal health and welfare, according to WOAH.

She added that the outbreak threatens global food security and the livelihoods of those dependent on poultry, and is causing “alarming levels” of mortality in wild birds and some mammals.

During the current outbreak in England, there have been about 300 confirmed cases of H5N1 infection in birds.

There have also been cases of infection in foxes and otters, which are believed to have become infected after eating dead birds infected with avian influenza.

But there are also concerns that the virus could spread among mammals, which could indicate that it has acquired a nasty mutation that could theoretically make it easier to infect humans.

More testing is still needed to determine if mammals transmit the virus.

“This is raising concerns about the threat to domestic and wildlife health, biodiversity and possibly public health,” WOAH said in a statement.

The current situation highlights the risk that H5N1 avian influenza will become more adapted to mammals and be transmitted to humans and other animals.

In addition, some mammals, such as minks, can act as mixed vessels for various influenza viruses, giving rise to new strains and subtypes that may be more harmful to animals and humans.

According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, the death rate from avian influenza is already about 50% in the world.

She warned that recent cases among farmed minks are of concern, as the surge in infections among nearby mammals “exacerbates” the risk that the H5N1 virus will become more adapted to mammals and humans.

WOAH noted that research is underway into how the virus spreads among mammals.

She urged countries to support improved disease surveillance in poultry and wild birds, prevent the spread of disease through strict biosecurity rules on farms, and protect people who come into close contact with wild birds.

The increased alerts came after the discovery of the H5N1 virus circulating among otters and foxes in the UK.

The Scottish Marine Life Saving Plan (SMASS) today confirmed that four dead seals – one each in Aberdeenshire, the Highlands, Fife and Orkney – have tested positive for bird flu.

The findings come after an “alarming” outbreak among minks on a farm in Spain was confirmed in October.

The disease is believed to be transmitted by migratory birds, while mammals feed on infected carcasses.

Professor Ian Brown, director of scientific services at the Animal and Plant Health Agency (Apha), also asked whether “health institutions have learned all the lessons from Covid” and whether the necessary monitoring structures are in place.

He warned that “the expansion of the virus’ ability to infect other carrier groups” was of greatest concern.

“It takes the virus to places, niches and ecosystems where it didn’t exist before,” Brown added.

For decades, scientists have been warning that avian influenza is the most likely contender for the next pandemic.

Experts say this is due to the risk of recombination – high levels of human influenza strains also increase the risk of human infection with avian influenza.

This could lead to the merging of a deadly strain of avian influenza with transmissible seasonal influenza.

Source: Daily Mail

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