London (Reuters) – Following the discovery of two confirmed human cases of H5N1 bird flu in one household in Cambodia, the World Health Organization (WHO) is collaborating with the local government. Dr. Sylvie Briand, the director of epidemic and pandemic preparedness and prevention, described the situation as “worrying” due to the recent increase in cases in birds and mammals. She also informed reporters in a virtual briefing that WHO was reviewing its global risk assessment in light of the recent developments. The risk of avian flu to humans was last rated as low by the U.N. health agency earlier this month.
Cambodian officials announced the H5N1-related death of an 11-year-old girl and started testing 12 of her contacts. Her father tested positive for the virus and had been exhibiting symptoms. Given the widespread infection of birds worldwide by the H5N1 virus and the rising number of reports of infections in mammals, including people, Briand remarked that the situation was alarming. WHO recommends increased vigilance from all nations and takes the threat posed by this virus seriously. One of the main reasons to pay attention to the instances in Cambodia is that it is still unclear whether there was any human-to-human transmission or if the two cases were caused by the “identical environmental factors,” according to Briand. most likely close contact with animals or birds that were afflicted.
In the past few months, a brand-new H5N1 strain known as clade 126.96.36.199b has been responsible for a record number of wild and domestic poultry mortality. Also, it has spread to mammals, causing widespread worry. H5N1 has been circulating for more than 20 years, but unlike previous epidemics, this subtype is not seriously illfecting people. Only a few of cases—most of them mild—of individuals who had close contact with sick birds having been reported to the WHO thus far. The virus may need to adapt in order for human transmission to take place, according to experts.
WHO underlined that there were 20 licensed pandemic vaccinations and antivirals available in case the situation changed, but nonetheless stated it was speeding up readiness activities. According to Richard Webby, head of the WHO Collaborating Center for Research on the Ecology of Influenza in Animals and Birds at St. Jude Children’s Hospital, it may take four to five months. But, there would be some immunizations on hand in the interim. Manufacturers can use two influenza virus strains that are closely related to the circulating H5N1 virus that are currently present in WHO-affiliated labs to create new vaccines if necessary. According to Webby, a global gathering of flu experts last week recommended creating a different strain that more closely resembles H5N1 clade 188.8.131.52b. if necessary, would need to be modified to more precisely match the circulating strain of H5N1.
More about H5N1 Strain
H5N1 is a highly pathogenic strain of the influenza A virus that can cause severe respiratory illness in birds and, in some cases, in humans. The “H” and “N” in the name refer to the two proteins on the surface of the virus that are used to classify influenza viruses – hemagglutinin (H) and neuraminidase (N).
H5N1 was first identified in geese in China in 1996 and has since spread to poultry in many countries in Asia, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. In humans, H5N1 can cause severe respiratory illness, with symptoms including fever, cough, sore throat, and muscle aches. In some cases, it can lead to pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and even death.
While H5N1 is primarily a bird virus, it can be transmitted to humans who come into close contact with infected birds or their droppings. However, it is not easily spread from person to person, and most human cases have occurred in people who have had direct contact with infected birds or their environments. Vaccines have been developed to protect against H5N1, but they are not widely used, and prevention efforts have focused on reducing human exposure to infected birds.
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