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WHO, avian transmission to humans of great concern

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WHO, avian transmission to humans of great concern

WHO Expresses “Enormous Concern” Over Spread of Avian Influenza to Humans

Concern is mounting worldwide over the growing spread of avian influenza, with fears that the virus could pose a real threat to humans. The latest alert comes from the World Health Organization (WHO), which expressed “enormous concern” over the spread of the H5N1 strain of avian influenza to new species, including humans.

Jeremy Farrar, head of the U.N. health agency, addressed the issue at a news conference in Geneva, stating that the high mortality rate of the H5N1 virus in infected individuals is a major concern. The fear is that the virus will adapt to be capable of human-to-human transmission, although currently, there is no evidence of such transmission.

Between 2003 and April 1, 2024, the WHO recorded a total of 889 human cases of avian influenza in 23 countries, resulting in 463 deaths. Recently, a person in the United States tested positive for avian influenza after being infected by a dairy cow in Texas. While cases of transmission to humans are rare, the potential for the virus to adapt and spread is a significant concern.

Efforts are underway to develop vaccines and therapies for H5N1, with a focus on strengthening monitoring and diagnostic capabilities worldwide. The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have also expressed strong concern over the potential for large-scale transmission if the virus acquires the ability to spread between humans.

In Italy, multiple outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza of the H5N1 subtype have been confirmed in poultry farms in recent years. With the virus already demonstrating the ability to infect a wide range of mammals, including companion animals like cats, the need for heightened vigilance and proactive measures is clear.

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As the world grapples with the ongoing threat of avian influenza, global health authorities are emphasizing the importance of equitable access to vaccines, therapies, and diagnostics. The need for coordinated efforts and rapid response capabilities is crucial in preventing further spread of the virus and protecting human health.

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