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Does avian flu affect humans?

Scientists are keeping an eye on cases of avian flu in other animals, including many species of mammals that are more closely related to humans. This is because the deadly strain is still killing off bird populations in many parts of the world, and people are looking for signs of avian flu in humans.

CBC News said that officials from Canada and the US found the very dangerous H5N1 avian flu in a number of animals, including bears and foxes, over the course of the past year.

In January, the national reference laboratory for France said that a cat got sick in late 2022 and had serious neurological symptoms. The virus showed genetic traits of adaption to mammals.

Several biologists said that a large outbreak on a Spanish mink farm was the scariest.

In October of last year, farm workers started to notice that more animals were dying. The avian flu caused sick minks to lose their appetite, drool a lot, bleed from their noses, tremble, and not be able to control their muscles.

A study published in this month’s issue of Eurosurveillance found that the cause was H5N1. This is the first time that this type of avian flu has been found in farmed minks in Europe.

The researchers wrote, “Our findings also suggest that the virus may have spread to other minks on the farm where it was found.”

In the end, more than 50,000 minks were killed or removed from the area. This was the entire population.

Michelle Wille, a researcher at the University of Sydney who studies how wild bird viruses change over time, says that this is a big change from the past ten years, when humans and other mammals only got sick a few times.

In an email to CBC News, she said, “This outbreak shows that the possibility of transmission from one animal to another is very real.”

There was only one farm, and it’s amazing that none of the workers got sick, even though they all wore disposable overalls, face shields, and masks.

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease expert in Toronto, says that the biggest worry right now is that if this virus changes in a way that makes it easier to spread between mammals, including people, “it could have devastating effects.”

“This is an infection that could cause an epidemic or a pandemic,” CBC News said he said. “I don’t think people understand how important this is.”

A very dangerous strain of avian flu is killing wild birds and destroying chicken farms all over the world. Some scientists worry that the virus could one day get better at infecting people, which could lead to a pandemic.

death rate from h5n1
This highly contagious strain of avian flu can kill almost all birds it infects, wiping out both wild bird populations and poultry farms. But can people get avian flu?

It often kills people and other mammals.

Over the past 20 years, the World Health Organization (WHO) has found 240 cases of H5N1 avian flu in four countries in the Western Pacific. These countries are China, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. About half of the people who got sick died.

Global WHO statistics show that between 2003 and 2022, there were more than 870 human cases and at least 450 deaths, which is a death rate of more than 50%.

Most illnesses in people also seemed to come from close contact with sick birds. The outbreak in Spain may be the first known case of mammalian propagation, but the fact that minks can pass the virus from one another in the wild shows that H5N1 is “poised to develop in mammals,” says Wille.

Louise Moncla, an assistant professor of pathobiology at the University of Pennsylvania’s school of veterinary science, says that a common way for viruses to adapt to new host species is to use a “intermediary host.”