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First Human Bird Flu Death: Assessing the Risk of Human-to-Human Transmission

As of now, there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission of bird flu in the case of the man who died in Mexico, according to the nation's health ministry

Edited By : Shashwat Nishant | Updated: Jun 6, 2024 20:01 IST
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Bird Flu
Bird Flu

The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed on Wednesday the death of a 59-year-old man from bird flu. This first human fatality from bird flu raises a critical question: Can the virus be transmitted from one infected person to another?

“On 23 May 2024, the Mexico IHR NFP reported to PAHO/WHO a confirmed case of human infection with avian influenza A(H5N2) virus detected in a 59-year-old resident of the State of Mexico who was hospitalized in Mexico City and had no history of exposure to poultry or other animals.The case had multiple underlying medical conditions. The case’s relatives reported that the case had already been bedridden for three weeks, for other reasons, prior to the onset of acute symptoms,” WHO has said in a press release.

“No evidence, so far”

As of now, there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission of bird flu in the case of the man who died in Mexico, according to the nation’s health ministry. The man had multiple pre-existing health conditions, and all individuals who had contact with him tested negative for the virus, the ministry stated.

According to the WHO, 17 people who had contact with the deceased were identified and monitored in the hospital. Among them, one person reported a runny nose between April 28 and 29. However, samples taken from these hospital contacts between May 27 and 29 tested negative for both influenza and SARS-CoV-2. Additionally, 12 more contacts (seven symptomatic and five asymptomatic) near the man’s residence also tested negative for the flu.

The Mexican health ministry has confirmed that the detected bird flu does not pose a risk to the general population. The source of the infection in this case remains unidentified.

H5N2 bird flu

In March 2024, a highly pathogenic avian influenza A(H5N2) outbreak was detected at a backyard poultry farm in Michoacán, a state bordering the State of Mexico where the deceased man lived, according to the WHO.

H5N2 is a subtype of the avian influenza virus, primarily affecting birds, including domestic poultry and wild waterfowl. It is highly pathogenic, causing severe illness and high mortality rates in bird populations. Although H5N2 poses a significant threat to the poultry industry, leading to substantial economic losses, it has a low risk of transmission to humans. Effective biosecurity measures and surveillance are crucial for managing H5N2 outbreaks.

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First published on: Jun 06, 2024 07:48 PM IST

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