Public Health Alert: The Expanding Reach of Avian Flu in Birds, Mammals, and Humans

June 11, 2024
3 mins read
Public Health Alert: The Expanding Reach of Avian Flu in Birds, Mammals, and Humans Photo Credits: Bob Nichols(ATTRIBUTION 2.0 GENERIC CC BY 2.0 Deed)
Public Health Alert: The Expanding Reach of Avian Flu in Birds, Mammals, and Humans Photo Credits: Bob Nichols(ATTRIBUTION 2.0 GENERIC CC BY 2.0 Deed)

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported this Friday, June 7th, that after conducting a laboratory study, a first positive case of human infection with the H5N1 strain of avian flu was confirmed in Australia.

The infected patient, a 12-year-old child, traveled to India in February and returned to Australia on March 1st. His family said they had no suspicion or known exposure to infected people or animals during the trip.

Meanwhile, as the United States continues to grapple with an outbreak of H5N1 flu in dairy cattle and in people who have had contact with them, the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported the first death from avian flu AH5N2 in the world, detected in a laboratory in Mexico.

According to the information, the victim is a 59-year-old man who died on April 24th, and the source of exposure to the virus reported in poultry in Mexico is unknown.

“This is the first laboratory-confirmed human case of infection with an influenza A(H5N2) virus reported globally and the first avian H5 virus infection in a person reported in Mexico,” warned the World Health Organization (WHO) on its website.

About the H5N1 case, upon returning to Australia, the child was hospitalized on March 2nd in the state of Victoria for more than two weeks, and no close family members developed symptoms, according to the WHO.

The organization also said that the genetic sequence showed that the virus is part of a strain circulating in Southeast Asia and has been detected in previous human infections, as well as in poultry.

Regarding the H5N2 case, the Mexican government has denied that the man died from avian flu and has accused the World Health Organization (WHO) of issuing a “deficient” statement.

Health Secretary Jorge Alcocer pointed out that the statement issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) could be significantly improved. He emphasized that the initial mention of a fatal case was inaccurate, as the individual died from another cause, which has not yet been determined.

Additionally, he noted that the statement only briefly mentions that the risk in this case is low. At the government’s morning conference, the official stated that the man died from complications related to diabetes and renal failure, but not from the AH5N2 virus.

Also from Geneva, Switzerland, the WHO clarified that a recent death in Mexico is not related to the H5N2 avian flu – another variant – as the UN health organization had initially stated. The patient’s death corresponds to multifactorial causes of other ailments and diseases, as clarified by Christian Lindmeier, WHO spokesperson.

The spokesperson added that the 59-year-old patient went to a hospital in the state of Mexico after suffering various symptoms for weeks until he finally died on April 24th.

After conducting tests, the man tested positive for the H5N2 virus, but this was not the cause of his death, which was associated with complications from diabetes and kidney failure, according to the Mexican government.

The WHO spokesperson said that there is an ongoing investigation, but for now, the organization does not estimate a high global health risk despite the increasing cases in birds and mammals.

A day before the WHO’s rectification, the Mexican government accused the health organization of issuing a “quite bad” statement about the alleged death due to the H5N2 virus in the North American country.

Jorge Alcocer, added that he was seeking a meeting with the WHO to clarify information that could cause panic in the population. 

During a seminar, WHO members urged vigilance regarding the progress of the virus, after warning that 11 cases of different avian flu variants have been detected so far this year.

Experts assured that they have observed the virus transferring to cattle in the United States due to the adaptation of the virus in mammals and not just in birds.

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According to UN experts, avian flu subtypes are currently circulating on all continents of the planet, including Antarctica, and more than 3.5 million infected birds worldwide have had to be culled.

Avian flu infections in humans can cause mild to severe upper respiratory tract infections and can be fatal. Ocular infections such as conjunctivitis, intestinal symptoms, and brain inflammation are also possible.

Among the recommendations made by the Mexican government to the general population, cooking poultry meat and eggs at temperatures above 70 degrees Celsius is highlighted, as well as maintaining sanitary measures such as hand washing and the use of hand sanitizer, and in case of contact with birds and presenting flu symptoms (fever, headache, cough, runny nose, among others), contacting federal authorities.

Tejal Somvanshi

Meet Tejal Somvanshi, a soulful wanderer and a staunch wellness advocate, who elegantly navigates through the enchanting domains of Fashion and Beauty with a natural panache. Her journey, vividly painted with hues from a vibrant past in the media production world, empowers her to carve out stories that slice through the cacophony, where brands morph into characters and marketing gimmicks evolve into intriguing plot twists. To Tejal, travel is not merely an activity; it unfolds as a chapter brimming with adventures and serendipitous tales, while health is not just a regimen but a steadfast companion in her everyday epic. In the realms of fashion and beauty, she discovers her muse, weaving a narrative where each style narrates a story, and every beauty trend sparks a dialogue. Tejal seamlessly melds the spontaneous spirit of the media industry with the eloquent prose of a storyteller, crafting tales as vibrant and dynamic as the industry she thrives in.

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