Thu. May 23rd, 2024

The growing menace of Bird flu

The PB2 E627K mutation in the human patient is associated with the virus's ability to adapt to mammalian hosts.

Concerns regarding a possible bird flu pandemic have returned after it was recently confirmed that there is a second case of H5N1 avian influenza in humans in the United States. This comes after months of extensive outbreaks in flocks of chickens and wild birds that caused serious economic harm and sparked worries about the virus’s ability to cross species.

When a Texas dairy worker became ill from H5N1 on April 1, 2024, it raised concerns about the virus’s potential for human-to-human transmission. The worker had been exposed to sick cows. Three cats in Texas and a dozen cow herds in six states have also perished from illness.

On April 3, 2024, the White House declared that it was keeping a careful eye on the situation. The first-ever human case of H5N1 avian flu was reported in the US in 2022.

In depth

In the meantime, the Antarctic Peninsula region may be seeing a rapid viral outbreak. Scientists from Federation University in Australia discovered 532 Adélie penguin carcasses on a small portion of an island, but they believe the death toll may be far higher—possibly in the hundreds.

Though the presence of the virus has not been established, the experts are confident that high-pathogenicity avian influenza is the cause of mortality. More testing will be carried out in the upcoming months to ascertain the reason of death.

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that the human patient carried the mutation PB2 E627K, which is connected to the virus’s adaptation to mammalian hosts. Given that human infection is rare with bird flu viruses, the development is worrying.

Pandemic concerns

The CDC reports that a small number of these viruses have caused human infection. The mutation has, nevertheless, been found earlier.

Nonetheless, several specialists have expressed worries about the virus’s aggressiveness and fatality, raising the possibility of a pandemic of bird flu. Experts have warned that a bird flu pandemic could be “100 times worse than COVID” and kill up to half of those afflicted, according to the UK-based news website Daily Mail.

Take away

The research also noted that infections in humans, cows, and cats have been reported, raising concerns about the possibility that the virus could mutate to become more widely transmissible.

It also highlighted that other specialists have also noted that it was premature to panic because there were still too many unanswered questions regarding recent occurrences.

Experts have been aware of the virus’s potential to cause a pandemic for some time.

By Parvathy Sukumaran

Parvathy Sukumaran is a Content Creator and Editor at JustCare Health. She is an Educator and a Language Lecturer. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Education and an M.A in English Literature. She is passionate about writing, archaeology, music and cooking.

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