The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the risk of bird flu spreading to humans is currently low, but that doesn’t mean it will necessarily stay that way.
H5N1 Influenza – common name Avian Influenza – have Occurs in mammals around the worldfrom grizzly bears to dolphins and house cats.
confirmed last week Bird flu has spread to mammals in the UK, Otters and foxes tested positive for the virus.
Recent reports of infections in mink, otters and seals “require close monitoring,” WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a briefing.
The risk to humans remains low, he said, noting that human cases have been rare since the flu strain emerged in 1996.
“But we cannot assume that this will always be the case, and we must be prepared for any change in the status quo,” Dr Tedros said.
The current outbreak started in October 2021, Sweep past poultry farms and wild birds. The virus is highly contagious and can cause rapid illness and death in birds.
Entire flocks had to be culled to try and contain the spread, and the dead birds now number in the millions.
Bird flu detected in nine otters and foxes since 2021
Bird flu has spread to mammals — so how worried should humans be?
Since the outbreak began, there have been five human cases of H5N1 infection worldwide, including one in the UK and one death in China.
Over the past 20 years, there have been 868 cases and 457 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.
Mink began dying of bird flu on a farm in Spain last October.
They are not the first mammals to contract the virus, but this case is different because it appears to be spreading from animal to animal, from pen to pen.
In most cases where mammals get sick — including British otters and foxes — it’s likely that they ate infected wild bird carcasses or their droppings.
Dr Tedros said people were advised not to come into contact with dead or sick wildlife, but to report it to local and national authorities who were monitoring the situation.
WHO also called on countries to strengthen monitoring of environments where humans and animals interact.
“WHO is also continuing to work with manufacturers to ensure that vaccines and antivirals are available for global use when needed,” he said.