Bird flu outbreak ‘100 times worse’ than Covid pandemic, say experts


Scientists have raised alarm over the latest bird flu outbreak in the US. According to a report by Daily Mail, a UK-based tabloid, experts said that bird flu is ‘100 times worse than the Covid pandemic’ as it could lead to a high fatality rate.

Dr Suresh Kuchipudi, bird flu researcher in Pittsburgh told Daily Mail, “We are not really talking about a virus that is yet to make a jump, we are talking about a virus that is globally present, already infecting a range of mammals and is circulating… It is high time that we are prepared”.

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Another expert, John Fulton said, “This appears to be 100 times worse than Covid, or it could be if it mutates and maintains its high case fatality rate. Once it’s mutated to infect humans, we can only hope that the [fatality rate] drops”.

What is bird flu

The bird flu virus drawing attention today — Type A H5N1 — was first identified in 1959. Since 2020, the virus has been spreading among more animal species — including dogs and cats in several countries.

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The symptoms of bird flu are similar to those of other flu, including cough, body aches, and fever. Some people may develop severe, life-threatening pneumonia as well.

Is bird flu a concern

In the US, two cases of bird flu have appeared in which the infection has spread in humans since 2022.

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Recently, a Texas farm worker showed symptoms of bird flu such as conjunctivitis, or pink eye.

Risk of bird flu

As per some media reports, avian influenza has caused serious or fatal infections among people who have close contact with wild birds or poultry.

Currently, H5N1 is not capable of spreading easily among humans, but scientists have been on alert for changes that could facilitate human spread and spark a pandemic.

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Is there a bird flu vaccine for humans?

The US has a stockpile of bird flu vaccines matched with the strain currently circulating, as well as antivirals that could be used to treat human infections. Besides, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has sample or “seed” strains of the virus that manufacturers could use to make more vaccine that closely matches the circulating virus.

Meanwhile, pharma giants such as Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline are monitoring avian flu and stand ready to develop avian flu vaccines as needed.

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Published: 05 Apr 2024, 08:58 AM IST


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