Covid scientists fear bird flu outbreak in humans after Cambodia death
What is Bird Flu?
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Covid-style modelling is being used by scientists to assess what would happen if the current bird flu pandemic evolved into a disease that could be spread from human-to-human. There is however no evidence at present confirming fears that the H5N1 avian influenza strain, which has caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of birds in the UK, can spread between different mammals.
A dozen people in Cambodia are suspected of being infected with bird flu, following the death of an 11-year-old girl in their province on Wednesday.
Of the dozen feared Cambodian cases, four are symptomatic, as the local publication The Khmer Times reports that all twelve have been tested for the virus and they’re awaiting the results.
In the UK, a national housing order, a de facto lockdown for captive birds, has led to a drop in infections.
But the UKHSA has now started a new group to start modelling for a possible human outbreak.
Covid academics as well as the UKHSA’s own experts are involved in the technical group tasked with producing the models.
One of those scientists is Professor Neil Ferguson, a key epidemiologist that provided modelling which sparked the Government into imposing the first Covid lockdown.
John Hopkins University immunologist Dr Arturo Casadevall tweeted in response to the suspected outbreak in the Far East.
He wrote: “Key information is whether the 12 infected people obtained it from a bird source or from human-to-human transmission, which would be very worrisome.”
Dr Ayoade Alakija, who in 2021 was appointed Special Envoy for Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator to the World Health Organisation, tweeted: “While the world gathers to ponder what a new countermeasures platform could look like. H5N1 outbreak reminds us that we need action, not words. The fierce urgency of now must be the priority. Recalibrate power, rebuild trust & GET TO WORK! #EQUITY”
H5N1 was first detected in 1959 in chickens in Scotland. After that, it was found in China and Hong Kong in 1996. In 1997, it was detected in humans for the first time.
During the 1997 outbreak in Hong Kong, scientists did find some cases of human-to-human transmission of the virus, however, instances of it were very rare.
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According to the MailOnline, UKHSA scientists confirmed that in the a “mild scenario”, it is estimated that one in 400 those infected would die from the virus.
However a “more severe scenario” would see one in 40 die from bird flu.
Despite these models, the WHO has warned that of the nearly 900 cases recorded in the last twenty years, more than half have been fatal.
Unlike Covid-19, bird flu is more deadly to the young, according to scientists.
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