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Woman Is First Known Human to Die From Bird Flu

Precautionary measures are being taken after a woman dies of bird flu in China
Precautionary measures are being taken after a woman dies of bird flu in China. Credit: Crep171166 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

China has reported the first human death caused by a type of bird flu that is not uncommon. However, the World Health Organization has stated that the possibility of an outbreak on a larger scale seems low.

The WHO has reported that based on the data provided by Chinese officials, a 56-year-old woman died from avian influenza strain H3N8 on March 16. This occurred almost a month after the woman first exhibited symptoms. As per Chinese authorities, the woman had numerous existing health concerns and had been exposed to live birds at wet markets.

Officials have reported that there is no evidence to suggest that the virus spread from human to human after the woman’s contacts were tested.

H3N8 Strain

The H3N8 strain is common in birds and does not typically cause significant symptoms in them. The World Health Organization has released a statement saying that based on current data, it seems unlikely that this virus can easily spread from person to person.

Therefore, the risk of it spreading on a local, national, and international level is low. Last year, China saw two other instances of H3N8 in humans, making this the third recorded case. The WHO warns that even though the risk is low, continued caution is necessary because they expect sporadic cases to occur in the future.

Current Concern About Avian Influenza

There has been a lot of talk in recent headlines about whether bird flu could lead to the next pandemic. The short answer is that it’s possible, but the current threat level is not high, according to WHO.

The current concern is that avian influenza, which is made up of several flu strains, is being spread by wild birds all over the world in what appears to be record numbers. This means that it’s now a year-round problem for poultry farmers, as reported by disease experts, veterinarians, and farmers.

In the past, farmers focused on mitigation efforts during the spring when waterfowl, like ducks and geese, which can carry the virus without getting sick, would arrive during migration season and transmit it to the farmers’ poultry.

But now, bird flu outbreaks are expanding in various regions such as Europe, Asia, Africa, North, and South America, and farmers are struggling to deal with the situation, resulting in significant losses.

New War Requiring Vigilance

According to Bret Marsh, the state veterinarian of Indiana, the current bird flu situation is like a new war that requires constant vigilance throughout the year.

David Suarez of Georgia’s Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory has suggested that the circulating virus has transmuted into a form that is affecting more local wild birds that don’t migrate as far as before.

In addition, birds that travel long distances are also carrying high levels of the virus, spreading it to areas of the world that were previously unaffected.

Some experts are pointing to climate change as a possible cause, as global warming may be disrupting the migratory habits of birds.

David Stallknecht, who leads the University of Georgia’s Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, believes that while we can hope for a miracle, it’s unlikely that the virus will simply disappear on its own.

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