Mammals in the UK are now infected with avian flu

Date:

Mammals in the UK are now infected with avian flu.

  • News by AUN News correspondent
  • Thursday, February 02, 2023
  • AUN News – ISSN: 2949-8090

Summary:

  • Statistics show that the virus is thought to have killed at least 208 million birds worldwide and infected at least 200 animals.

  • “Since the most recent outbreak began in October 2021, people have had five cases of the H5N1 virus.

  • The H5N1 avian influenza virus has infected about 870 people in 21 countries over the past 20 years, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

  • A recent study by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) found that “rapid and consistent acquisition of the mutation in animals” may make it more likely for the virus to spread to people.

  • However, the risk assessment carried out by UKHSA and partners failed to find any indications of a current rise in the risk of avian influenza to the general public.

In the UK, mammals like otters and foxes are getting sick from the largest avian flu outbreak.

Statistics show that the virus is thought to have killed at least 208 million birds worldwide and infected at least 200 animals.

Public health officials warn that the mutation in mammals could spread to people, but the risk to the general population is relatively low.

Animals and people exposed to the virus will now be more closely watched and tested in the UK.

Even though experts worldwide are looking into whether or not avian flu could spread to other animals, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) warns that the disease primarily affects birds.

The virus has been discovered in several species across the globe, including grizzly bears in America and mink in Spain, as well as dolphins and seals.

The highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 virus was found in nine otters and foxes in the UK. These animals were tested along with 66 other species, including seals.

In Scotland, cases have been found in Shetland, the Inner Hebrides, and Fife. In England, cases have been found in Cornwall, Durham, Cheshire, and Powys.

It is thought that they consumed diseased, dead, or dying wild birds as food.

There was no proof of transmission between mammals, but it was discovered that the animals had a virus mutation that would make it easier for them to infect mammals.

The APHA said there was “a minimal chance” that the infection would spread widely among GB mammals.

  • Why is the avian flu this year so severe?

  • In Great Britain, there are anti-bird flu precautions in place.

The director of scientific services for APHA, Prof. Ian Brown, stated: “A sick or dying wild bird contains an awful lot of viruses.” Because of this, scavenging mammals will be exposed to very high amounts of viruses when they eat sick or dead birds. As a result, the virus has a chance to infect a host population that it generally avoids.

Prof. Brown says that the UK’s national avian flu taskforce is now stepping up its monitoring of cases in mammals and genetic analysis of the virus itself. They are also closely monitoring how the virus spreads in wild bird populations worldwide.

“There is no doubt that the infection is spreading.” “And it’s almost amazing that there is only one strain,” he added, adding that more international action was required to stop the spread of the disease.

He said he was “very aware of the risks” of the avian flu spreading like the COVID-19 epidemic.

“This global spread is alarming,” he declared. To fight this illness worldwide, we need to think about new approaches and ways to work together.

“We’ll continue to run that danger if we don’t find a solution to the issue globally.”

Since the most recent outbreak began in October 2021, people have had five cases of the H5N1 virus. One of these cases happened in the UK, and one ended in death in China.

A nine-year-old child in Ecuador was diagnosed with avian influenza A (H5) last month.

The H5N1 avian influenza virus has infected about 870 people in 21 countries over the past 20 years, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). 457 of them resulted in deaths.

The virus has “not developed the capacity for ongoing human transmission.” Therefore, there is a limited chance of human-to-human spread.

“Because influenza viruses are always changing, WHO continues to stress the importance of global surveillance to detect and track virological, epidemiological, and clinical changes that may affect human (or animal) health and are linked to new or circulating influenza viruses,” the statement said.

The director of the WHO’s global influenza program, Dr. Wenqing Zhang, said that the risk of the virus spreading was “extremely alarming” and that “the risk has been increasing over the years, as shown by the number of outbreaks in animals and several infections in humans.”

Since the outbreak started in October 2021, the World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH), an intergovernmental organization, has documented about 42 million individual cases in domestic and wild birds.

Nearly 15 million domestic birds, like chickens, have died because of the disease, and 193 million more have been killed.

A WOAH spokeswoman cautioned that the transmission to mammals was probably underreported. It also reveals 119 outbreaks impacting mammals, with roughly 200 individual cases identified.

In the last 18 months, there have been more instances of non-avian animals becoming infected by the virus, according to Dr. Gregorio Torres, the head of science at WOAH.

It “may be an indication of highly sensitive surveillance—an indicator that we are doing a good job,” he said.

But he also said, “On the other hand, it can also be a sign that the epidemiology or dynamics of the disease have changed.” That needs to be closely watched.

We must not undervalue the possibility of adaptation for humans. There is a risk of different transmissions between species.

A recent study by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) found that “rapid and consistent acquisition of the mutation in animals” may make it more likely for the virus to spread to people.

Furthermore, the organization expressed concern about England’s lack of wild bird and animal surveillance and genomic data collection, and the lack of testing of people who had come into contact with sick birds.

It is currently trying to create new techniques for testing people exposed to the disease who may not have any symptoms.

At UKHSA, Dr. Meera Chand is the incident director for avian influenza. “The most recent information shows that it is hard for people to catch the avian influenza viruses that are now going around in birds.” We continue to be on the lookout for any signs of shifting risk.

“In the UK, a few cases of avian influenza virus detection in small numbers of mammals have occurred lately. However, the risk assessment carried out by UKHSA and partners failed to find any indications of a current rise in the risk of avian influenza to the general public.

The public is told not to touch sick or dead birds and to call the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs if they find any dead raptors, gulls, waterfowl, or three or more dead wild birds.

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