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Chief virologist fears new ‘alarming’ bird flu pandemic – symptoms of human infection

Back in October, an outbreak of bird flu was detected in minks raised on a farm in Galicia, northwestern Spain. On Thursday, January 19, 2023, an analysis of the H5N1 viral outbreak was published in the journal of infectious diseases Eurosurveillance. The report noted: “One mink farm was involved with over 50,000 minks.

“The identified viruses belong to clade 2.3.4.4b, which is responsible for the ongoing epizootic in Europe.

“An unusual mutation (T271A) in the PB2 gene has been discovered with potential public health implications.”

The H5N1 avian flu virus has been “a cause for concern” since 1997, the NHS notes.

Historically, H5N1 did not infect humans as easily, but there have been a few cases of humans being infected with the virus, resulting in a “row of deaths”.

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The National Health Service adds: “H5N1 avian influenza has been detected in some domestic birds, other captive birds and wild birds in the UK.”

Professor François Balloux commented on the recent spike in infections at a mink farm.

An infectious disease expert from University College London said: “The sequenced genomes carry several rare or previously unknown mutations, likely acquired after mink-to-mink transmission.

“Avian [bird] The H5N1 flu can infect a range of carnivores and sometimes humans.

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“Small clusters have been reported in humans, but person-to-person transmission remains ineffective.”

Prof Ballu added: “Such outbreaks of avian influenza in mink farms are highly sub-optimal as they create natural ‘passage experiments’ in the mammalian host, which could cause the virus to become more transmissible among mammals.”

How is bird flu transmitted to humans?

The National Health Service elaborates: “Avian influenza is spread by close contact with an infected bird (dead or live).”

Close contact includes touching infected birds, their droppings or bedding, and killing or preparing infected birds for cooking.

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Symptoms of bird flu in humans

The main symptoms of bird flu can come on very quickly and include:

  • Very high fever or feeling hot or chilly
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Cough or shortness of breath
  • Diarrhea
  • Disease
  • Abdominal pain
  • Chest pain
  • Bleeding from the nose and gums
  • Conjunctivitis.

Usually, the first symptoms appear three to five days after infection.

More serious complications such as pneumonia and acute respiratory failure may occur.

People who suspect they may be infected with avian flu are advised to call NHS 111.

Tests can be done to confirm bird flu, and treatment may include antiviral drugs such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza).

Dr. Jeremy Ratcliffe of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland said there was no need to panic as the outbreak ended months ago, according to the Daily Mail.

“However, [as] H5N1 can successfully adapt to transmission from mammals [it] quite disturbing,” he said.

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