News Health/Medical Avian Flu: A Closer Look
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How Worried Should We Be About Avian Flu?

Avian flu, also known as bird flu, has recently made headlines in the United States due to its spread beyond birds. Let's delve into what we know about this virus and its potential impact on humans.

The Reach of Avian Flu

Avian flu primarily affects wild and farm birds globally, with occasional outbreaks among mammals. The specific strain, H5N1, has caused over 100 million bird deaths worldwide in 2022 and has been detected in various mammal species, including cats, goats, and raccoons in the United States.

The virus spreads when animals consume infected ones or come into contact with bodily fluids like feces and saliva from infected animals.

Risk to Humans

While avian flu viruses rarely infect humans, they can be deadly. From 2003 to April 1, 2024, 889 human cases of H5N1 were reported in 23 countries. Symptoms include eye redness, respiratory difficulties, fever, cough, sore throat, and pneumonia. Alarmingly, more than half of these cases resulted in death.

Erin M. Sorrell, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, explains that H5N1 is highly pathogenic and can replicate outside the usual locations for influenza. In the United States, the first known transmission to a human occurred in 2022, and the second case was reported in March 2024.

Experts emphasize that vigilance is crucial to prevent further spread and potential pandemic risks.

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