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Business News/ News / Trends/  Scientists warn of potential new pandemic with rising H5N1 bird flu cases
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Scientists warn of potential new pandemic with rising H5N1 bird flu cases

H5N1 has spread in 26 countries since 2020 and mammals are falling victim to the virus.

Bird flu threat looms across world (REUTERS)Premium
Bird flu threat looms across world (REUTERS)

Scientists have warned that another pandemic might be underway as cases of bird flu, known as H5N1, go up.

According to a report by The Metro, conservation biology professor Dr Diana Bell pointed out that bird flu has been spreading rapidly since 2020.

While the first case emerged in domestic geese in 1997, the disease is spreading gradually across other continents, affecting non-avian species as well. The strain has already killed a handful of dolphins in Chile and Peru, some 50,000 seals and sea lions along the coasts, and at least half a million birds regionwide.

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The professor said that H5N1 has spread in 26 countries since 2020 and mammals are falling victim to the virus. As many as 882 cases of bird flu were reported in humans across 23 countries in 2020, resulting in a worrying fatality rate of 52%, the report mentioned.

The mystery behind the origin of bird flu is similar to the Covid-19 pandemic. Both are believed to have originated from zoonotic spillover events where viruses jump from animals to humans.

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The first person who was confirmed to be infected with H10N5 died in China on January 27 2024, but this patient was also suffering from seasonal flu (H3N2). They had been exposed to live poultry which also tested positive for H10N5.

As climate change escalates, animals will be forced to move into new territories, mixing with one another in new ways and possibly boosting opportunities for the virus to further mutate.

The biology professor emphasised the urgent need for research and surveillance to understand the adaptability of viruses and their potential to infect other species.

Meanwhile, drugmakers, including GSK and Moderna, have said they are developing bird flu vaccines for humans. The pharma giants said they have the capacity to produce hundreds of million so doses within months utilizing production lines used for seasonal flu vaccines.

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Published: 14 Mar 2024, 08:38 AM IST
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