Spike in bird flu outbreaks increases risk of human infection, warn UN agencies

(Reuters) – Three United Nations agencies warned on Wednesday that a continued rise in bird flu outbreaks around the world raised fears the virus was no longer adapting easily to infect humans, and urged countries to step up surveillance diseases and to improve hygiene in poultry farms.

Earlier this year, a new H5N1 strain of highly contagious bird flu among wild birds spread explosively to new geographic regions, infecting and killing various species of mammals and raising fears of a pandemic in humans.

However, only half a dozen cases in people who have been in close contact with infected birds have been reported to the World Health Organization (WHO), and most of them have been mild.

“We encourage all countries to increase their capacity to monitor these viruses and detect any human cases,” said Dr Sylvie Briand, Director of Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness and Prevention at WHO.

The WHO, along with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Organization for Animal Health, said countries should work together across all sectors to save as many animals as possible. and protect people.

The agencies also noted that countries must share genetic data of human and animal viruses in publicly accessible databases.

A dozen countries have reported cases of bird flu outbreaks in land and marine mammals since 2022, including farmed mink in Spain, seals in the United States of America, and sea lions in Peru and in Chile.

(Reporting by Mariam Sunny in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)

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