WHO Confirms World’s First Human Bird Flu Death in Mexico

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In a tragic turn of events, the World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed the first human death from bird flu in Mexico. A 59-year-old man, who had been hospitalized in Mexico City, succumbed to the virus on April 24 after suffering from a fever, shortness of breath, diarrhea, nausea, and general discomfort.

The First Human Case of Bird Flu in Mexico

The WHO revealed that the deceased individual, who had prior health complications, contracted bird flu from an unknown source. The health body emphasized that the current risk of bird flu to the general population remains low. The man, a resident of the State of Mexico, had been hospitalized in Mexico City, battling severe symptoms before his death on April 24.

Unknown Source of Exposure

Despite thorough investigations, the source of the virus exposure remains unidentified. According to the WHO, A(H5N2) viruses have been detected in poultry in Mexico. This case marks the first globally confirmed human infection with the influenza A(H5N2) virus and the first avian H5 virus infection reported in Mexico.

No Direct Animal Contact

Interestingly, the victim had no history of contact with poultry or other animals but had multiple underlying health conditions, including chronic kidney disease and type 2 diabetes. He had been bedridden for three weeks prior to the onset of acute symptoms. Andrew Pekosz, an influenza expert at Johns Hopkins University, noted that these underlying conditions significantly increased the risk of severe influenza, even from seasonal flu. The exact means of the man’s infection remains a significant mystery.

Previous Outbreaks and Vigilance

In March, Mexico experienced an A(H5N2) outbreak within an isolated family unit in Michoacan state. The government assured that these cases did not pose a threat to commercial farms or human health. Following the man’s death in April, Mexican authorities confirmed the presence of the virus and promptly reported the case to the WHO.

Monitoring and Precautions

There is no evidence of person-to-person transmission in this case. Farms near the victim’s home have been monitored, and individuals who had contact with the deceased tested negative for bird flu. The WHO and Mexico’s health ministry continue to keep a close watch on the situation.

Bird Flu in Mammals and Global Concerns

Bird flu has crossed species barriers, infecting mammals such as seals, raccoons, bears, and cattle, primarily through contact with infected birds. Scientists remain vigilant for any changes in the virus that could facilitate easier human-to-human transmission. The United States has reported three cases of H5N1 human infection linked to dairy cattle exposure since an outbreak was detected in March. Although these cases and the death in Mexico involve different strains, they both belong to the H5 avian virus family.

Andrew Pekosz highlighted that since 1997, H5 viruses have shown a concerning tendency to infect mammals more frequently than other avian influenza viruses. This ongoing issue underscores the importance of monitoring such infections closely, as each spillover could lead to mutations that enhance the virus’s ability to infect humans.

Global Perspective

Australia recently reported its first human case of A(H5N1) infection in May, with no signs of transmission. However, the country has detected more poultry cases of H7 bird flu on farms in Victoria state. These incidents emphasize the global nature of the threat and the need for continued vigilance.

In summary, the first confirmed human death from bird flu in Mexico is a sobering reminder of the persistent threat posed by avian influenza viruses. While the immediate risk to the general population remains low, health authorities and scientists worldwide are on high alert, monitoring the virus for any signs of increased human transmissibility.

India Time Line

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