H5N1 Bird Flu Igniting Fears of Human Outbreak

CONCERNING: H5N1 Bird Flu Igniting Fears of Human Outbreak

United States: The H5N1 virus, which has been responsible for causing bird flu outbreaks across the United States, has become a concern among health experts and authorities. According to recent research, the virus has been spreading at a great pace among mammals, which could surely lead to human-to-human transmission.

The conclusion has been drawn from a preprint study which has not peer-reviewed. As per the reports, the study has been concluded from the researchers from the University of California, Davis and the National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA) in Argentina. The concerns were heightened after the virus was found among elephant seals as well as other marine mammals.

The researchers have mentioned that the versions of the virus can be found among mammals and can also infect birds.

While explaining the strain, the researchers wrote, “The implication that H5N1 viruses are becoming more evolutionary flexible and adapting to mammals in new ways could have global consequences for wildlife, humans, and/or livestock,” Live Science reported.

Spread of Bird Flu Across the Globe!

Initially the H5N1 virus was found among the birds in the year 2020, the first case was found in Europe, following which case was detected in South Africa. Then, in August 2023, the virus was detected at the very tip of South America, but at that time the virus was detected in sea lions, not in birds.

Amid the increasing cases among marine mammals, the researchers from UC Davis and INTA continued the research and, in October 2023, found that the flu was found among the colony of elephant seals at Punta Delgada on the coast of Península Valdés in Argentina. According to the official reports, at that time, as many as 17,000 elephant seals, out of which 96 percent were pups – were born during that season, as reported by Live Science.

Unveiling the intricate blueprint of the pernicious virus, researchers identified it as belonging to the clade 2.3.4.4b, specifically genotype B3.2. This lineage, having transgressed from migratory avians to mammals within South America on multiple occasions during the latter part of 2022 and into 2023, has shown alarming adaptability. One such zoonotic transmission culminated in the emergence of a novel lineage with enhanced mammal-to-mammal transmission capability, as detailed by the scientific cohort.

The comprehensive genetic analysis elucidated the interconnected nature of mammalian outbreaks across Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Brazil, marking the first recorded transnational mammal-to-mammal dissemination of this virulent strain. The researchers’ findings underscore the unprecedented nature of this propagation event.

While elaborating the same, co-lead author of the study, Dr Marcela Uhart, who also worked as a veterinarian with the UC Davis Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center and its Latin America Program, in a statement mentioned, “This is increased evidence that we should be alert, especially for marine mammals. The more it adapts to mammals the more important it becomes for humans.”

The experts have also suggested that the virus doesn’t cause any harm to humans as the reported cases are rare. “This virus is capable of adapting to mammals, as we can see from the mutations that are consistently found in the viruses belonging to the mammalian clade,” study co-leader Agustina Rimondi, a virologist at INTA, said in the statement, the reports by Live Science mentioned.

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