Sick minks fuelling worries about bird flu in U.S. Here’s why  – National

A latest bird flu outbreak at a mink farm has reignited worries about the virus spreading extra broadly to individuals.

Scientists have been protecting tabs on this bird flu virus for the reason that Fifties, although it wasn’t deemed a risk to individuals till a 1997 outbreak in Hong Kong amongst guests to reside poultry markets.

As bird flu hits extra and diverse animals, like on the mink farm, the worry is that the virus may evolve to unfold extra simply between individuals, and probably set off a pandemic.

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Scientists say one other form of bird flu was possible behind the devastating 1918-1919 flu pandemic, and avian viruses performed roles in different flu pandemics in 1957, 1968, and 2009.

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Nonetheless, the danger to most people now could be low, says Dr. Tim Uyeki of the U.S. Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention.

A take a look at the bird flu virus and why it’s getting renewed consideration:

Some flu viruses primarily have an effect on individuals, however some others mainly happen in animals. For instance, there are flus that happen in canine, plus pig– or swine– flu viruses. After which there are avian viruses that unfold naturally in wild aquatic birds like geese and geese, after which to chickens and different domesticated poultry.

The bird flu virus drawing consideration right this moment –Kind A H5N1– was first recognized in 1959, by investigators wanting right into a flu outbreak in chickens in Scotland. Like different viruses, it has advanced over time, spawning newer variations of itself.

By 2007, the virus was discovered in greater than 60 international locations. Within the U.S., it has lately been detected in wild birds in each state, in addition to in industrial poultry operations or yard flocks in 47 states. For the reason that starting of final 12 months, tens of hundreds of thousands of chickens have died of the virus or been killed to cease outbreaks from spreading, one of many causes cited for hovering egg costs.

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How typically do individuals get bird flu?


The Hong Kong outbreak in 1997 was the primary time this bird flu was blamed for extreme human sickness. Out of 18 individuals contaminated, six died. To include the outbreak, the Hong Kong authorities closed reside poultry markets, killed all of the birds in the markets, and stopped bringing in chickens from southern China. It labored, for some time.

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Signs are the much like that of different flus, together with cough, physique aches and fever. Some individuals don’t have noticeable signs, however some develop extreme. life-threatening pneumonia.

Click to play video: 'Avian flu spread among other animals raises alarm'

Avian flu unfold amongst different animals raises alarm

Globally, almost 870 human infections and 457 deaths have been reported to the World Well being Group in 20 international locations. However the tempo has slowed and there have been about 170 infections and 50 deaths in the final seven years. Within the overwhelming majority of circumstances, the contaminated individuals bought it instantly from contaminated birds.

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The primary and solely U.S. case occurred simply final April. A jail inmate in a piece program picked it up whereas killing contaminated birds at a poultry farm in Montrose County, Colorado, in the western a part of the state. His solely symptom was fatigue and he recovered.

Can it unfold between individuals?

In some cases, investigators concluded that the bird flu virus apparently did unfold from one individual to a different. That occurred in Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, China and Pakistan, most lately in 2007.

In every cluster, it unfold inside households from a sick individual in the house. Scientists don’t imagine it could unfold simply by way of informal contact, as seasonal flu can. However viruses mutate and alter. Scientists fear about the ever-rising variety of alternatives for bird flu to combine with different flu viruses in contaminated individuals or animals and mutate, making it simpler to unfold to individuals.

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Click to play video: 'Avian flu puts pressure on producers, consumers'

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It wouldn’t take a lot for that to occur “after which we’d be in a extremely robust scenario,” mentioned Dr. Luis Ostrosky, chief of infectious ailments and epidemiology at College of Texas Well being Science Heart at Houston.

The CDC’s Uyeki mentioned probably the most nervous he’s been about H5N1 was throughout the earlier clusters. That form of human-to-human unfold doesn’t look like taking place proper now, he mentioned.

What occurred on the mink farm?

Latest concern amongst public well being specialists has been fueled, in half, by detection of infections in quite a lot of mammals. The rising record consists of foxes, raccoons, skunks, bears and even marine mammals like seals and porpoises. Officers in Peru mentioned three sea lions discovered useless in November examined optimistic for, and the latest deaths of a whole lot of others could also be because of bird flu.

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Then final month, a European medical journal reported on a bird flu outbreak in October at a mink farm in Spain with almost 52,000 animals, the place the sickness unfold like wildfire.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan farm loses turkey inventory following avian flu infestation

The mink had been fed poultry, and wild birds in the area had been discovered to have bird flu. However researchers mentioned that nevertheless it began, they imagine the virus then unfold from mink to mink– a worrisome state of affairs. No employees had been contaminated, although they wore masks as a part of COVID-19 precautions.

Jennifer Nuzzo, director of the Pandemic Heart at Brown College Faculty of Public Well being, mentioned the outbreak virus is being watched for mutations that might make it extra simply transmitted to individuals, and probably between individuals.

“That’s the true fear,” mentioned Nuzzo.

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