Health News

Avian Flu Spreads Across US: WOAH Director Warns of Heightened Human Infection Risks

Visual Representation for bird flu testing | Credits: Reuters

United States: The general public of the United States has been dealing with another health-related threat, which is associated with spreading bird flu. The expansion of avian flu across an increasingly diverse array of species and its broadening geographical scope have elevated the hazards of human infection by the virus, as stated by the director of the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) on Thursday.

Monique Eloit’s statements follow reports from the US government concerning instances of the ailment in dairy cattle across multiple states and an individual in Texas, a situation she noted would only be significantly concerning if there had been confirmed transmission among cattle, an inquiry still under investigation by US authorities, according to the reports by Reuters.

Visual Representation for Bird Flu | Credits: Fox News

The avian influenza, colloquially referred to as bird flu, has resulted in the culling of hundreds of millions of poultry globally in recent years, primarily transmitted by migratory avian populations.

Despite a decrease in the number of outbreaks this season, the virus has expanded its reach to novel territories, encompassing regions such as South America and Antarctica and impacting a wider array of fauna, leading to the devastation of populations of rare creatures.

Among mammalian species, foxes bore the brunt of the impact of bird flu, although the virus also affected numerous other species including felines, big cats, pinnipeds, cetaceans, and ursids, as Reuters noted.

“In recent months, we have encountered a plethora of diverse and varied mammalian species. The extension of this phenomenon to other taxa is cause for concern,” remarked the head of the Paris-based organization in an interview with Reuters.

“Inevitably, we are witnessing an increase in both the number of affected species and the contamination of animals, thus inherently elevating the viral load and the risk of human transmission,” she added.

Certain outbreaks of bird flu have led to severe or fatal illnesses among individuals who have had close interactions with wild avian populations or domestic poultry, although sustained human-to-human transmission has yet to be observed. For the majority of individuals not exposed to infected animals, the likelihood of contracting the disease remains minimal, according to experts.

Both animal and human influenza viruses possess a propensity for mutation, prompting concerns that such mutations may facilitate cross-species transmission, including to humans, as per Reuters.

The European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) issued a warning on Wednesday regarding the potential for a widespread avian flu pandemic in the event of the virus acquiring the ability for human-to-human transmission, as human populations lack immunity against such a variant.

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