Could the next covid be a bird flu?

Forbes

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notified the public in early April that an individual in Texas had tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza, or bird flu.
What Is Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza?
Since January of 2022, the largest outbreak of avian influenza in recorded history has occurred worldwide.
Although sequencing studies have not yet demonstrated this to be the case, the recent human case in Texas has some asking, “Could avian influenza result in the next pandemic?” How Is Avian Influenza Different Compared to Covid-19?
Some Existing Flu Tests Will Detect Avian Influenza One of the most significant challenges during the early weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic was we had no way to identify who was infected.
In contrast, some tests that we currently use to diagnose human influenza—especially molecular tests (e.g., PCR)—will detect avian influenza strains, including H5N1.
Partnerships are currently underway to develop tests that are specific for highly pathogenic avian influenza strains.
A candidate vaccine against H5N1 exists, and studies have shown that it should elicit a robust immune response against the currently circulating subtype of avian influenza.

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The US. S. Early in April, the public was informed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that a person in Texas had tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza, also known as bird flu. This person was exposed to dairy cattle that were thought to be HPAI-infected, and the only sign they experienced was conjunctivitis, or redness in the eyes. Concerns regarding a widespread outbreak—or possibly a pandemic—among humans have increased in light of this, the second known human case of avian influenza in the United States since 2022.

How Does Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Occur?

Influenza viruses are not exclusive to humans; they can cause yearly epidemics of mild to severe respiratory illnesses. A few influenza subtypes are spread among animals, such as dogs, horses, birds, pigs, and bats. Certain animals, like wild waterfowl, may not exhibit any symptoms at all from their infection. E. , the infection does not cause disease), and these animals are thought to be the virus’s natural reservoir. However, there could be disastrous effects if the virus spreads to other animals, like backyard bird flocks or commercial poultry.

The greatest avian influenza outbreak in history has been occurring worldwide since January 2022. Almost 9,000 wild birds and over 90 million poultry in the US have been afflicted by the highly pathogenic avian influenza subtype known as H5N1. Concerns have been raised that the virus might be evolving to allow for more effective transmission among mammalian species after it was recently found in some mammals, including dairy cattle. While sequencing studies have not yet proven this to be the case, some are wondering if the recent human case in Texas raises the possibility that avian influenza will cause the next pandemic.

What Distinctions Exist Between Covid-19 and Avian Influenza?

Early in 2020, a new virus that is currently known as SARS-CoV-2 started to spread throughout the world. There was no prior immunity developed by the human population against this virus, no vaccine or treatment was available, and little was known about the mechanisms underlying the virus’s transmission and disease-causing abilities. The Covid-19 pandemic, which caused over 700 million cases and 7 million deaths globally, was exacerbated by these factors. HPAI has the potential to cause a major outbreak in the human population, but it differs significantly from Covid-19 in a number of important ways that reduce the likelihood of a global pandemic.

For Almost Three Decades, We Have Known About H5N1.

In 1996, during an outbreak in domestic waterfowl, the highly pathogenic avian influenza subtype H5N1 was first discovered in Southern China. Over 850 human infections with a mortality rate exceeding 50% were caused by this pandemic. Subtypes of this influenza virus, both high- and low-pathogenic, have since caused outbreaks in animals and, less frequently, in humans. Because of this, scientists, experts in infectious diseases, and representatives of the public health sector have been able to examine these viruses and learn important information about their pathogenicity, transmission, and possible therapeutics.

Avian influenza can be detected by certain flu tests currently in use.

The inability to determine who was infected was one of the biggest problems in the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic. This promoted the virus’s spread by enabling cases to remain undiagnosed. Contrarily, a few of the procedures we currently employ to identify human influenza, particularly the molecular procedures (e.g. G. , PCR)—will identify strains of avian influenza, including H5N1. Most, though, are unable to subtype the infection. Put differently, current diagnostic tests identify the type of influenza we have, but they are unable to distinguish between common human subtypes like H3N2 and avian subtypes like H5N1. Development of tests specific to highly pathogenic strains of avian influenza is currently underway through partnerships.

We Are Advancing With Regards To Avian Influenza Vaccines And Antivirals.

The fact that HPAI has been around for almost thirty years has given researchers ample opportunity to study the disease and create prevention and treatment strategies. There is a possible H5N1 vaccine, and research indicates that it should provoke a strong immune response against the avian influenza subtype that is presently in circulation. The CDC has provided it to vaccine producers, enabling quick production and distribution in the event that it becomes necessary. Furthermore, a number of FDA-approved antiviral drugs are used to treat human influenza, and evidence suggests that these drugs also work against HPAI. Both the frequency of fatal HPAI cases and their severity would decline with the use of these currently available antivirals.

What Contributions Can You Make To Stop An HPAI Epidemic Among People?

There are still a few things you can do even though there is currently little chance of an HPAI outbreak among humans. First, keep sick or deceased animals—especially birds and cattle—away from you. If you must interact with these animals, put on gloves, an N95 respirator, and eye protection. Finally, after coming into contact with an animal that may have HPAI, get tested for the flu and let the local or state public health officials know if you experience any symptoms, such as a sore throat, cough, fever, body aches, or conjunctivitis.

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