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WHO issues bird flu warning

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Avian influenza, aka bird flu, is an infectious viral illness that primarily spreads among birds like chickens and ducks.
who bird flu warning

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has released a warning about bird flu spreading among humans, as it continues to be transmitted among different animals.

Avian influenza, aka bird flu, is an infectious viral illness that primarily spreads among birds like chickens and ducks.

It has spread to other animals in recent years, causing the WHO to label it a global animal pandemic. Humans can also be infected, though human-to-human transmission is yet to be recorded.

The WHO has warned of widespread fatalities if human-to-human transmission occurs. There is no human vaccine for bird flu.

Bird flu

The WHO has warned about the H5N1 strain of bird flu, first recognised in Asia during the late 1990s. Outbreaks have since been detected across much of the world.

However, this strain has yet to be found in Australia.

The virus can be transmitted through a bird’s saliva, mucus and faeces, meaning those who work with livestock are at a greater risk of infection.

Human contact

From 2003 to the beginning of this month, 889 humans in 23 countries have been infected with this strain of the virus. Of these cases, 463 died.

In a warning issued this week, WHO Chief Scientist Dr Jeremy Farrar said the “extremely high” mortality rate among humans has increased public safety concerns.

The H5N1 strain has been recently detected in many different mammals — the same animal group as humans. This includes sea lions in South America and foxes in Canada.

U.S. outbreak

An outbreak among dairy cows in the U.S. has advanced concerns of human contact.

Eight U.S. states have confirmed recent outbreaks among cattle, including Texas, South Dakota, and North Carolina.

Earlier this month, a person from Texas tested positive for the H5N1 strain after exposure to cattle.

WHO bird flu warning

Farrar described the bird flu outbreak among dairy cows in the U.S. as a “huge concern”. The WHO has accelerated efforts to prepare a health response to the potential spread of the virus between humans.

Farrar said vaccine development against the virus was not “where we need to be”, and that many public health agencies still lacked the capabilities to diagnose bird flu cases in humans.

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