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Chances of Bird Flu Spreading to Humans a Serious Threat: WHO

bird flu

The World Health Organization’s leading scientist expresses “enormous concern” regarding the potential spread of the H5N1 bird flu to humans. However, at least one infectious disease expert reassures Canadians that there is currently no need to alter their daily routines.

Jeremy Farrar conveyed his warning during a press briefing in Geneva on Thursday, highlighting recent developments. Just a fortnight ago, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) documented a human case of avian influenza in an individual who had been in contact with dairy cows in Texas.

Avian flu, or bird flu, originates from influenza viruses that circulate among wild aquatic birds and have the potential to infect domestic poultry and other animal species. The H5N1 avian influenza virus initially surfaced in southern China in 1996, triggering outbreaks in avian populations since then.

While various mammals have been susceptible to infection over the years, the recent transmission to dairy cattle has raised alarms among scientists. This occurrence is unprecedented and concerning due to the close proximity humans often have with these animals.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirms no instances of avian flu detected in dairy cattle or livestock in Canada. However, producers are urged to remain vigilant for symptoms and to promptly contact their veterinarian if they suspect a case.

Jeremy Farrar emphasized the significant concern surrounding the virus’s spread to mammals, potentially leading to human transmission. He stressed the critical need to prevent such an evolution, reiterating the magnitude of the concern.

Despite these warnings, infectious diseases specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch assured Global News that the average Canadian need not worry at present. He questioned whether there would be any practical changes to daily life, concluding there would not.

Dr. Bogoch highlighted that while this flu strain has been monitored for decades, recent observations reveal a significant resurgence in bird infections, resulting in substantial bird fatalities. He underscored the concern about the virus mutating as it spreads from bird to bird and potentially to mammals.

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