An H5N1 variant is worrying scientists. For now, no spread to humans but its contagiousness among mammals suggests keeping your guard up
The fear for thebird flu.
A outbreak on a mink farm in Spain indicates that an H5N1 strain capable of spreading among mammals.
The scientific journal gives ample insight into it natures.
In October last year, an outbreak was reportedly reported at a mink farm in Carral, Spain. The animal’s mortality rate had risen from 0.25 to 0.77 percent a week when they tested positive for H5N1. Sequencing showed that the animals had been infected with a new variant of the virus and some of the genetic material was associated with a strain circulating among seagulls. Farm managers were forced to cull all 51,986 mink on the farm. Of the farm workers, 11 had been in contact with an infected animal, but all tested negative for H5N1.
This variant constitutes uncharted territory for bird flu – specified Wendy Puryear, virologist at Tufts University in Medford – in the absence of certain specific precautions, the disease could also make the leap between species and spread to humans.
Over the past year, H5N1 has shown increasing transmission capacity between birds and mammals. Infections have been found in about a dozen species in the United States, including raccoons, foxes, seals and grizzly bears. Prior to the Spanish mink case, however, all reported incidents could be attributed to direct contact with contaminated material. Animals – explained Hualan Chen, virologist at the Harbin Veterinary Research Institute in China – can ingest wild bird droppings or prey on infected animals. This can lead to the development of the disease. The spread among mammals, however, implies that H5N1 may pose a major risk to public health. Minks – write the authors of the Eurosurveillance report referred to in the Nature article – could constitute a potential basin of interspecies transmission between birds, mammals and humans. It is necessary to strengthen the culture of biosafety and biosecurity in this breeding system and to promote the implementation of surveillance programs for avian influenza and other zoonotic pathogens.
The level of danger to humanity, however, is still rather low, experts reassure. If the new strain of H5N1 starts infecting people, health authorities should be able to quickly produce a specific vaccine. Bird flu has consistently caused high levels of disease and high death rates among wild birds and mammals over the past year, so it will be crucial to monitor how the new variant plays out in wild animals. will. We cannot yet make accurate predictions.
Comment Stephen Bertuzzi, Chief Executive Officer of the American Society for Microbiology and Anthony Fauci’s right-hand man in the Anti-Covid Task Force of the White House, a graduate in Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences from the Catholic University – Piacenza campus, who is in Italy these days to participate on January 27 in Milan at the conference The Catholic University in its second century of life. Some lines of research: There is currently no cause for alarm for a human epidemic. This one perfect example of one health, of a circular system (in which animals, people, the environment are interconnected, ed). The task of microorganisms, viruses is to transmit themselves, therefore they mutate to survive because they cannot replicate without a host. Events like this are part of natural phenomena that happen. The difference – and the concern – is that today it is possible to travel, communicate to global level much higher and, above all, we live in an environment where the contact with animals is much more frequent than it was before.
After all, it has also been seen with COVID-19. But Is the pandemic really over? Are we in an endemic phase? The virus, in fact, is endemic in the general population, in most cases it is a matter of mild forms and not of serious diseases: the symptom of its endemic nature, and we expected this. We emerge from a pandemic with immunization, both through vaccines and with recovery. However, – underlines Bertuzzi – even if in low percentages, they are there immunosuppressed people, who do not have an active immune system, therefore more at risk; and it’s not right not to worry about them. Also, the fact that the virus is endemic does not mean that it is not dangerousamong other things continues to circulate and, the more it circulates, the more muteso there may be surprises in the future, such as variants that could be dangerous.
There is the danger of a new pandemic? It is not a question of “if” there will be, but of “when” there will be, precisely for the reasons I was saying, that is, due to the fact that we live in a circular system – clarifies Bertuzzi -. Surveillance fundamental, especially in migratory birds and wild animals, therefore it must be strengthened because it’s a way to get ahead of bad news.
January 26, 2023 (change January 26, 2023 | 21:40)
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