Bird flu – As the world is still recuperating from the Covid-19 epidemic, there are sporadic signs of new threats.
While most are isolated incidents or small concerns, another influenza pandemic is on its way.
According to experts who have been closely monitoring new case reports, the H5N1 virus has the potential to harm not just humans but also birds and animals.
The new variety first surfaced in 2020 and has since outpaced researchers’ projections, spreading further than birds.
The bird flu has infected animals, raising the possibility of a human pandemic.
In Maine last summer, the H5N1 variant was linked to seals dying.
In January, researchers published an article in Eurosurveillance saying that an H5N1 epidemic occurred on a mink farm in Spain in October.
The minks were exposed to the bird flu after being fed leftover poultry.
Meanwhile, in the United States, in the United States, and in the United States, in the United States, and in the United States.
- Sea lions off the coast of Peru
- Wild bears
Hundreds of millions of domestic poultry have been culled or died worldwide as a result of the new bird flu strain.
According to Michelle Wille, an avian influenza virus ecologist, millions of wild birds have undoubtedly perished, but barely a few government organizations are keeping count.
“This virus is catastrophic for bird populations,” said Wille.
Although there is minimal evidence that the bird flu strain is infecting people, a few cases have been reported.
Six people were rescued from the seven incidents, with only one death in China.
This month, Chinese health officials reported an eighth incidence in a lady, although her current condition is unknown.
One human case has been recorded from Colorado, while the other two are from a Spanish mink farm.
They had no respiratory symptoms, suggesting that they were not ill.
Testing could also have revealed viral contamination in the noses of those who handled sick birds.
The existing knowledge gaps stem from an inability to predict which avian influenza viruses would infect humans and cause an outbreak.
The gaps are due to the fact that bird flus are difficult to infect (or disseminate) to animals and people.
As a consequence, scientists are unsure how viruses would need to change in order to transmit to humans.
A silver lining
While the discovery is concerning, the fact that just a few people were ill amid a major epidemic is encouraging, according to Marie Culhane, a food animal vet at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul.
Yet, experts all across the world are hunting for signs that the virus is evolving to spread among humans.
According to Wille, another ray of light is that flu drugs and immunizations are already available to combat the virus.
After the Covid-19 pandemic vaccination issue, they are already one step ahead.
The most recent strain of bird flu is referred to as very pathogenic avian influenza.
It is extremely hazardous to both domestic and wild birds.
Waterfowl, such as ducks, typically carry avian flu but exhibit little to no symptoms.
Yet, when influenza viruses transfer between poultry and waterfowl, mutations occur and propagate, killing birds.
Bird flu may be severe and, in rare cases, deadly for certain people.
Since 2003, there have been 873 human cases of H5N1 infections, with fewer than half of the patients dying, according to the World Health Organization.
A controversial ferret study conducted more than ten years ago contributed to scientists’ understanding of H5N1’s potential risk.
According to the study, changes to proteins that help viruses break into cells and multiply themselves may allow the virus to move through the air and infect the ferrets.
While researchers understand the significance of the mutations in lab settings, it is unknown what the alterations will be like in the real world, according to Jonathan Runstadler, a disease ecologist and virologist.
Viruses are constantly evolving, but not all genetic mutations can coexist.
A change, for example, may help one version of the virus transmit more effectively while damaging another, decreasing the infection’s spread.
“We’re not sure how critical or how big a difference or how much to worry about those mutations when they happen in the wild,” said Runstadler.
“Or when they happen five years down the road when there are other changes in the virus’s genetic background that are impacting those [original] mutations.”
So far, researchers are working hard to detect specific changes.
Runstadler and his colleagues seek for viruses that spread to new species in nature and work backward to establish which alterations are significant.
According to virologist Louise Moncla, her research is developing tools to examine the genetic blueprints of viruses from previous outbreaks for signs of a virus that may move between animal species.
“There’s a ton that we don’t know about avian influenza viruses and host switching,” said Moncla.
Image source: CNET