New York, April 5: Health experts have sounded the alarm over the potential threat of a bird flu pandemic caused by the H5N1 strain, which could be "100 times worse than COVID-19" and potentially lead to fatalities in up to half of those infected. Researchers are concerned that the virus is nearing a critical point that could trigger a global health crisis.

According to a report by the Daily Mail, the concerns were raised during a recent briefing where researchers discussed the H5N1 strain of bird flu. They expressed apprehension that the virus may be approaching a critical threshold that could spark a global pandemic. Bird Flu Human Case in US: Health Alert Issued After First Human Case of H5N1 Avian Flu Reported in Texas, Patient Got Infection Through Dairy Cattle.

What is the H5N1 Virus?

H5N1 is a highly pathogenic subtype of avian influenza A, known for causing severe illness in poultry. First detected in China in 1996, it has since caused sporadic human infections, primarily through direct bird-to-human transmission. While primarily affecting birds, H5N1 can infect mammals and has a varied impact, from fatal to mild or asymptomatic cases in non-bird species.

First Human Infection from Mammal Reported

In a concerning development, outbreaks of avian flu have been reported at a poultry facility in Michigan and an egg producer in Texas. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed an H5N1 infection in a dairy farm worker in Texas, marking the first known case of human contraction from a mammal. Bird Flu Spreading to Humans? Student in Vietnam Dies From H5N1 Influenza Virus Infection, Confirms Health Ministry.

The virus has spread across dairy herds in five states, prompting the White House to initiate close monitoring. Despite assurances from health officials that the risk to the public remains low, the rapid spread among millions of animals has raised concerns.

What Experts Are Saying?

Dr Suresh Kuchipudi, a leading bird flu researcher, cautioned that the H5N1 virus's capacity to infect various mammalian hosts, including humans, indicates an imminent pandemic risk. "We are getting dangerously close to this virus potentially causing a pandemic," he urged preparedness.

"We are not really talking about a virus that is yet to make a jump, we are talking about a virus that is globally present, already infecting a range of mammals and is circulating… It is really high time that we are prepared,” Kuchipudi added.

John Fulton, a pharmaceutical consultant, highlighted the gravity of the situation, suggesting that a mutation maintaining H5N1's high fatality rate could be significantly more lethal than COVID-19." The World Health Organisation reports a 52% fatality rate for H5N1 since 2003, with 462 deaths out of 887 cases. This contrasts starkly with Covid's current fatality rate of less than 0.1%.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Apr 05, 2024 07:59 AM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website