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WHO concerned about bird flu after girl’s father tests positive

PARIS — The World Health Organization said on Friday it was concerned about bird flu after the father of an 11-year-old Cambodian girl who died from the disease also tested positive, raising fears of human-to-human transmission.

Since late 2021, one of the worst global avian influenza outbreaks on record has resulted in tens of millions of poultry being culled, mass deaths of wild birds and rising numbers of infections among mammals.

In Cambodia, on February 16, the girl fell ill with a fever, cough and sore throat and died on Wednesday of the H5N1 bird flu virus, according to the Health Ministry.

Authorities then collected samples from 12 people who had been in contact with her.

On Friday, authorities said the girl’s father, 49, had tested positive, adding he was asymptomatic.

The WHO said it is in close contact with the Cambodian authorities about the situation, including the test results of the girl’s other contacts.

Humans rarely get bird flu, but when they do, it’s usually through direct contact with infected birds.

Investigators in Cambodia are working to determine if the girl, her father and the contact cases were exposed to infected birds.

Officials are also awaiting test results from several dead wild birds found near the girl’s remote village in eastern Prey Veng province.

– “Worrying” –

“So far, it’s too early to know whether it’s human-to-human transmission or exposure to the same environmental conditions,” said Sylvie Briand, WHO’s director of preparedness and prevention of epidemics and pandemics virtual press conference.

Earlier this month, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the risk of bird flu to humans was low, and Briand stressed that assessment hadn’t changed.

However, she added that the UN agency is waiting for information from Cambodia to see if this assessment needs to be updated.

“The global H5N1 situation is worrying given the widespread distribution of the virus in birds around the world and increasing reports of cases in mammals, including humans,” Briand said.

“WHO takes the risk of this virus seriously and calls for heightened vigilance from all countries,” she added.

So far, cases of bird flu in humans have been “sporadic,” Briand said.

“But when you see that there are a number of potential cases surrounding that first case, you always ask yourself what happened: Is it because the original case might have spread the disease to other people?

“As such, we are really concerned about the potential human-to-human transmission that occurs from this initial animal spread.”

– ‘Tragic’ –

According to the WHO, if it is confirmed that human-to-human transmission of avian influenza has occurred, a number of measures could be taken fairly quickly.

For example, there are nearly 20 H5 avian flu vaccines approved for pandemic use, the WHO said.

But Richard Webby, director of the WHO Center for Animal Influenza Studies, estimated it could take five or six months to update and produce such a vaccine for the currently circulating H5N1 strain.

The latest infection is the 58th recorded case of bird flu in Cambodia since the country’s first human case was detected nearly two decades ago.

“As tragic as this case is in Cambodia, we expect that there will be some cases of clinical illness with such a widespread infection,” said James Wood, head of the veterinary department at the University of Cambridge, referring to the outbreaks in birds.

“Of course, the virus needs to be carefully monitored and monitored to make sure it hasn’t mutated or recombined, but the limited number of human disease cases hasn’t increased appreciably, and that one case by itself doesn’t signal that the global situation is suddenly changing.” has changed.”

In the last two decades, there have been nearly 900 confirmed human cases of H5N1, with more than 450 deaths, according to the WHO.

The mortality rate for people with H5N1 is “over 50 percent,” Briand said.

A nine-year-old girl in Ecuador who contracted bird flu last month has “recovered and is discharged from hospital” and is on antiviral drugs, she added.

Source: Crypto News Deutsch

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