The H5N1 strain of bird flu, which has killed tens of millions of birds in the U.S. in recent months and countless others worldwide, poses a major threat to poultry in the U.S. — and poses a broader threat to human health, experts say.

Pressure:It was first identified in domestic waterfowl in China in 1996– It is behind the death of about 58 million American birds last year. These deaths were caused directly by the virus and indirectly by slaughtering herds to prevent further exposure. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus has a fatality rate of nearly 100% in birds, killing most of them within 48 hours.

This year’s bird flu outbreak is the worst in U.S. history, surpassing the 2015 outbreak, according to the CDC. The most important animal health event in American historyHe said. That same year, about 51 million birds died nationwide from H5N1. Related avian flu viruses. This season’s outbreak is the worst in UK history, with farmers across England being ordered to keep their birds indoors from November 7. Poultry “lock” type.

The so-called “R naught” value—or the average number of infected people per person—for Covid-19 was originally from From 1.5 to 7And now it is sitting More than 12.

The prevalence of H5N1 R among birds is negligible: “around 100,” according to Choudhury.

It’s an environmental crisis that’s already affecting people. Poultry prices are increasing And Making it difficult for eggs to come. US egg retail costs have doubled in the past year, and ready-to-cook chicken prices have risen by a quarter or more in the UK. Bloomberg It was recently reported.

“The world is facing an unprecedented bird flu pandemic,” said Rajiv Chaudhary, professor of global health at Florida International University. Chance.

Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research (CDRAP), added that poultry farming “can’t be sustained in a country like the US.”.

Economic and food supply issues aside, the strain has also sickened people, though so far to a lesser extent. But experts warn that there may not be a small way of transmission between people. last week The World Health Organization reported A previously healthy Ecuadorian child was hospitalized with the virus. How she contracted the virus is unclear and under investigation, but a chicken her family recently purchased died for no apparent reason.

Osserholm and Chowdhury are concerned about increased bird-to-human transmission and the potential for human-to-human transmission of bird flu—especially as the virus moves around the world and jumps to more mammals because of mutations.

Grizzlies were the first to be infected with the highly pathogenic bird flu last week. Euthanized in Montana After being diagnosed with partial blindness and confusion along with other neurological problems. Foxes, dolphins, opossums, skunks, seals, other types of bears and bottlenose dolphins are among the other species infected since last year. US Department of Agriculture.

The chance of human-to-human transmission is “very low,” Chaudhuri said. But if sustained, it could shake the world in a way not seen since the Spanish flu of 1918.

If H5N1 does indeed make a sustained transition in humans, “the impact could be significant,” he said, signaling the start of a “new global influenza pandemic.”

‘Unusual’ among humans but very deadly

The Ecuadorian victim of the virus – the country’s first and the first in the Latin America/Caribbean region – was admitted to hospital on December 30 with symptoms of nausea, vomiting and constipation. to a January 18 WHO Epidemic Update.

On January 3, she was taken to Children’s Hospital in critical condition after developing septic shock and being diagnosed with pneumonia. She tested positive for HIV-1 on January 7 and She remained hospitalized, on sedation and on a ventilator until January 17, the World Health Organization said.

Since 2020, the healthy girl has become the seventh to be infected with the virus. According to the World Health Organization. H. Normally, the virus is difficult to jump to people, and person-to-person transmission is “rare,” the World Health Organization said.

But when the virus jumps to the surface, it is very deadly, with a mortality rate of over 50% in humans. According to the CDC.

H5N1 pandemics have passed over a quarter of a century, without sustained transmission to humans, Osterholm noted. Hundreds of human cases have been identified At the beginning of this century in Egypt Although it is not continuously transmitted from person to person. The virus’s history of transmission to humans, and among them, gives reason to hope that it remains the exception rather than the rule.

But the 1918 flu epidemic serves as a cautionary tale, Chowdhury said. Like H5N1 flu, Spanish flu is thought to have an avian origin. Both viruses have genes that allow them to replicate efficiently in human bronchial cells, a 2006 report From the Washington, DC Public Reference Bureau.

In the case of H5N1 among humans, such inflammation can lead to “severe inflammation” of the lung cells, which is much greater than that seen in the common cold. Similar results were seen in Spanish flu victims, whose autopsies showed “lungs were over-irritated and trapped debris” as a result of drowning. The report observed.

While seasonal flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, aches, and fatigue, according to the CDC, HIV infection in humans is more common. usually high fever, weakness, cough, sore throat and muscle pain, stomach pain, chest pain and diarrhea; According to the World Health Organization. These symptoms can lead to rapid breathing, pneumonia and/or acute respiratory distress syndrome, which is often fatal, as well as neurological problems such as seizures.

The current flu vaccine does not cover H5N1, according to WHO. And candidate vaccines for the viral strain have been developed, “not ready for widespread use.” According to the organization.

When it comes to planning for the next pandemic, influenza is always considered to be responsible, said Dr. George Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. Chance.

An Ecuadorian boy and she is HIV positive.

“It scares you.”

Currently, there is an ongoing epidemic of HIV among humans. Chance.

“They need to change biosecurity procedures,” he said, adding that the virus is airborne and can’t be kept out of the herd just by “placing a screen.”

“These barns require a lot of air handling issues,” he added. “H5N1 essentially rewrote avian influenza.

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