• Victoria Bowers

Should We Be Scared Of Bird Flu?

Highly pathogenic avian influenza is still affecting wild bird populations worldwide. This year’s bird flu outbreak has been the largest and longest ever experienced in the UK and in many parts of Europe. (1)

Bird-to-human transmission of avian flu is rare and has previously only occurred a small number of times in the UK. A human case of influenza A (H5N1) virus was reported in the United States of America to WHO on the 29th April 2022. Highly pathogenic avian influenza A (HPAI) subtype H5N1 has caused family case clusters, mostly in Southeast Asia.

Since 2003 to 31 March 2022, a total of 864 cases and 456 deaths of influenza A(H5N1) human infection have been reported worldwide from 18 countries. (2)

Should this virus, or another zoonotic influenza virus, gain the ability of sustained human-to-human transmission, an influenza pandemic could result.(3)

To date, there is no evidence of genetic reassortment between human influenza A viruses and HPAI Asian H5N1 viruses. There has also been no indication that these viruses are becoming more transmissible to humans or from human to human. (4)

Further reading: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-01338-2

(1) https://biologicalsciences.leeds.ac.uk/biological-sciences/news/article/349/leeds-expert-joins-government-bird-flu-task-force

(2) https://www.who.int/emergencies/disease-outbreak-news/item/2022-E000111

(3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2857285/

(4) https://www.cdc.gov/flu/avianflu/h5n1-threat.htm

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