Scientists fear bird flu could mutate to spark deadly human pandemic | The Sun

BIRD flu could mutate to become even more harmful to humans than it currently is, experts fear.

It comes just days after the World Health Organization said countries should prepare for cases of the bug to jump from animals to humans.

Fears have been raised in recent weeks due to the "unprecedented" current outbreak, that has seen a wide range of mammals – including otters and foxes – infected.

The World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) has now warned mammals could act as "mixing vessels" for different viruses, which could lead to new variant that is "more harmful" to humans.

The H5N1 strain already has a fatality rate of around 50 per cent among people. 

Only 870 people have been infected with bird flu in the past 20 years – and 457 of these died.

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Bird flu has only ever been found in one person in Britain, when Alan Gosling, 79, a retired engineer in Devon, caught it from ducks in his home in December 2021.

Professor Diana Bell, an expert in zoonotic diseases from the University of East Anglia, told the Sun: "The few recent cases in the UK, US and Spain suggest that circulating strain now is less virulent in humans, however we’ve seen with Covid how quickly new strains can emerge.

"We also know that the current H5N1 strain kills a wide range of other mammals species as well as birds."

Another expert previously told The Sun they feared the virus might combine with another virus to make it more dangerous.

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What are the symptoms of bird flu in humans?

The main symptoms of bird flu can appear very quickly and include:

  • a very high temperature or feeling hot or shivery
  • aching muscles
  • headache
  • a cough or shortness of breath

Other early symptoms may include:

  • diarrhoea
  • sickness
  • stomach pain
  • chest pain
  • bleeding from the nose and gums
  • conjunctivitis

Source: The NHS

Professor James Wood, of veterinary medicine at the University of Cambridge said: "Despite what appears to be innate resistance of humans to the current virus strain, the widespread exposure does raise the possibility of the avian virus recombining with a human influenza virus to change into one that can transmit in humans.

"However, this has not yet occurred despite the unprecedented scale of exposure."

The WHO is currently holding talks with manufacturers to make sure supplies of vaccines and antivirals would be available.

It comes after evidence of the virus spreading between minks in Spain last month caused international concern.

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