Terrifying Warning: Bird Flu Mutates To Infect Humans, Could Be 100 Times Deadlier Than COVID

By Lisa Pelgin | Friday, 05 April 2024 03:00 PM
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Health experts have issued a stark warning about a potential bird flu pandemic that could be "100 times worse than COVID," following the discovery of a rare human case in Texas.

The H5N1 avian flu, a strain first detected in 2020, has spread rapidly, affecting wild birds in every state and extending to commercial poultry and backyard flocks.

The virus has now been found in mammals, with cattle herds in four states reported to be infected. On Monday, federal health officials announced that a dairy worker in Texas had contracted the virus. "This virus [has been] on the top of the pandemic list for many, many years and probably decades," said Dr. Suresh Kuchipudi, a bird flu researcher from Pittsburgh, during a recent panel discussion, as reported by the Daily Mail.

Kuchipudi warned that the situation is becoming increasingly precarious, with the virus potentially on the brink of causing a pandemic. The H5N1 virus has been detected in species worldwide and has demonstrated the ability to infect a variety of mammalian hosts, including humans. "So therefore, in my view, I think this is a virus that has the greatest pandemic threat [that is] playing out in plain sight and globally present," Kuchipudi stated.

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John Fulton, a pharmaceutical industry consultant for vaccines and the founder of Canada-based BioNiagara, echoed Kuchipudi's concerns. "This appears to be 100 times worse than COVID — or it could be if it mutates and maintains its high case fatality rate," he said. "Once it's mutated to infect humans, we can only hope that the [fatality rate] drops."

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The World Health Organization reports that approximately 52% of humans who have contracted H5N1 since 2003 have died. In contrast, COVID currently kills less than 0.1% of those it infects, although the fatality rate was around 20% at the start of the pandemic.

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Symptoms of bird flu resemble those of other flu strains, including cough, body aches, and fever. Some individuals may not exhibit noticeable symptoms, while others can develop severe, life-threatening pneumonia. The infected dairy worker in Texas reported "eye redness (consistent with conjunctivitis)" as their only symptom, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

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The CDC stated that the patient was instructed to isolate and is being treated with an antiviral drug for the flu. CDC Director Mandy Cohen told the Washington Post that the agency and "the whole U.S. government is taking this situation very seriously."

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Cohen maintained that the virus does not pose a significant risk to the general public, noting that the dairy worker was in direct contact with infected cattle. The US Department of Agriculture has stated that there are currently no changes that would make the virus more transmissible to humans.

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However, the discovery of the virus in cattle could indicate that it is beginning to mutate, Cohen told the Washington Post. "We had not seen avian flu in cattle prior to last week. That is new," she said. "It is a reservoir for [the] virus to circulate and potentially change."

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The European Food Safety Authority warned on Wednesday that if the virus mutates sufficiently to infect humans, it could spread rapidly. "If avian A [H5N1] influenza viruses acquire the ability to spread efficiently among humans, large-scale transmission could occur due to the lack of immune defenses against H5 viruses in humans," the Food Safety Authority stated.

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In response to the potential threat, the US is testing components used to create a vaccine for the virus. Two candidate vaccine viruses appear to be well-matched to protect against H5N1, according to the Washington Post.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stated that the Biden administration is monitoring the situation closely. "We take the health and safety of the American people seriously," she said at her briefing on Wednesday. "Our top priority is to keep communities healthy, safe and informed."

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