(CTN News) – The World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Wednesday that the recent surge in bird flu outbreaks among mammals could make the virus spread more easily among humans as a result of the surge in bird flu outbreaks.
In the past couple of years, Europe has been affected by the worst outbreak of bird flu ever recorded, and North and South America have also been affected by severe outbreaks of bird flu in the past couple of years.
A result of this has led to the culling of tens of millions of poultry throughout the world, most of which have the H5N1 strain of the virus, which was first discovered in 1996. The rate of infection among mammals has recently been on the rise, which is a worrying trend.
The H5N1 avian influenza virus normally spreads among birds, but the increasing number of detections among mammals, which are biologically closer to humans than birds, raises concern that the virus might be able to easily infect humans,” according to the WHO.
Furthermore, some mammals may serve as mixing vessels for influenza viruses, leading to the emergence of new viruses that may pose a greater risk to human and animal health.”
It has been reported that outbreaks have occurred in 26 species, including farmed mink in Spain and sealions in Chile. A recent outbreak of H5N1 has been reported in Poland among cats.
Together with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH), the WHO urged countries to cooperate to save animals and ensure human safety.
Recent paradigm changes in avian influenza ecology and epidemiology have increased global concern as avian influenza has spread to new geographical areas and caused unusual wild bird deaths, as well as an alarming increase in mammalian cases, according to WOAH science chief Gregorio Torres.
A human infection can result in a severe illness with a high mortality rate. There are usually direct or indirect connections between human bird flu cases and exposure to infected poultry or contaminated environments.
There are no signs that the virus is able to spread easily from one person to another, but vigilance is required to identify any changes in the virus that may change this,” said the WHO’s pandemic preparedness chief Sylvie Briand.
Experts were looking for changes that could pose a greater Bird Flu risk to humans, and urged countries to bolster their monitoring capabilities, she stated.
Briand stated that this is of particular importance since the virus is now spreading to countries with limited experience in avian flu surveillance.
The WHO reports that since 2020 a variant has caused an “unprecedented” number of bird deaths in many countries in Africa, Asia, and Europe. It spread to North America in 2021, then to Central and South America in 2022.