New Bird Flu has a Higher Probability of Spreading to Humans: Expert
PARIS (Reuters), A wave of bird flu in Europe and Asia poses a greater risk of spreading according to the World Organisation for Animal Health.
After previous outbreaks that caused the eradication of tens of millions of birds, and trade restrictions the spread of highly pathogenic Avian Influenza has caused concern in the poultry industry.
“This time the situation is more difficult and riskier because we are seeing more variations emerge, which make them harder to follow,” OIE Director General Monique Eloit told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday.
“Eventually the risk is that it is mixed with a human flu virus that can be transmitted between people then suddenly it takes on an entirely new dimension,” she said.
Between October to December the bird flu outbreak was reported in 15 countries, most of which were H5N1 strain. Italy was the most severely affected in Europe with 285 outbreaks and nearly four million birds killed, OIE data showed.
Outbreaks usually begin in the fall, when the infection is spread by wild birds.
H5N1 is one of the few bird flu strains which has been passed on to humans. Around 850 people have been reported to be infected by the strain, of which half died in the end, the OIE declared.
In the past year, a number of people were infected by the H5N6 strain in China, raising concern among some experts, who say a previously circulating strain appears to have changed and could be more asymptomatic to people.
Eloit said that the majority of countries have learned to limit flu outbreaks and that transmission to humans will be intermittent because bird flu is often spread through close contact.
“If there are two or three humans infected it is a concern, but it is not necessary to scream too fast about the dangers of extension. It will depend on how the affected people are,” she said.