WHO Sounds Alarm Over Human Cases Of Bird Flu, Flags Global ‘Zoonotic Animal Pandemic’

London: The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday is deeply concerned over the growing spread of H5N1 bird flu infections in humans and other species.

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“I think this remains an enormous concern,” WHO chief scientist Jeremy Farrar told newspersons in Geneva.

Referring to it as “a global zoonotic animal pandemic,” WHO said cows and goats have joined the list of mammals infected with the current bird flu outbreak that began in 2020.

“The great concern of course is that in infecting ducks and chickens and then increasingly mammals, that virus now evolves and develops the ability to infect humans and then critically the ability to go from human to human,” Farrar said.

There is no evidence yet that influenza A(H5N1) virus is spreading among humans, but the “extraordinarily high” mortality rate in hundreds of cases where humans have been infected through contact with animals is a matter of grave concern.

A total of 463 deaths from 889 human cases has been recorded in the last 15 months, said the UN health agency. That’s an extremely mortality rate of 52 per cent, WHO pointed out.

For the first time, the strain of bird flu which killed millions of wild birds and was detected in a range of mammals over last few years, has been found in cattle in eight American states.

“When you come into the mammalian population, then you’re getting closer to humans… this virus is just looking for new, novel hosts,” Farrar warned.

In India, two places in Kerala’s Alappuzha district have reported a bird flu outbreak.

Officials informed H5N1 avian influenza was found in ducks reared in Alapupuzha.

The infection was confirmed after samples of the ducks showing symptoms of bird flu were sent to a lab in Bhopal for testing.

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