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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

WHO Warns of Growing Threat of H5N1 Bird Flu Spread

The WHO raises alarm over the spread of H5N1 bird flu, highlighting its high mortality rate and potential for human transmission, stressing the need for global monitoring, vaccine development, and equitable access to countermeasures to mitigate the threat.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has raised alarms regarding the rampant spread of the H5N1 bird flu, expressing deep concern over its “extraordinarily high” mortality rate among humans. Originating from a 2020 outbreak, the virus has caused the deaths of tens of millions of poultry and has recently extended its reach to various mammal species, including domestic cattle in the US.

Dr. Jeremy Farrar, the WHO‘s chief scientist, highlighted the escalating risk of the virus mutating to infect humans, underscoring the dire consequences of human-to-human transmission. While no such cases have been recorded thus far, the mortality rate among humans infected through animal contact remains alarmingly high.

Efforts are underway to develop vaccines and therapeutics for H5N1, emphasizing the urgent need to bolster global monitoring and diagnostic capacities. Dr. Farrar stressed the importance of equitable access to countermeasures to combat the potential spread of the virus among humans.

Unforeseen Spread to New Species Poses Global Threat

Recent developments have seen H5N1 infecting unexpected species like cows and goats, presenting a significant challenge for containment efforts. The virus’s ability to evolve and infect mammals heightens concerns about its potential to bridge the species barrier and pose a direct threat to human health.

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The WHO has called for intensified monitoring and investigation to understand the extent of human infections and the virus’s adaptation patterns. Dr. Farrar emphasized the critical role of international collaboration and urged concerted efforts to prepare for a potential pandemic scenario.

In response to the evolving threat, the WHO has initiated discussions to refine terminology related to airborne pathogens, aiming to streamline communication and bolster global response efforts. However, challenges persist in vaccine development and diagnostic capabilities, necessitating concerted action to mitigate the risks posed by H5N1.