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The world has simply emerged from the clutches of COVID-19, and a brand new pandemic lurks within the shadows. An 11-year-old woman died in Cambodia of fowl flu, also called avian influenza, and plenty of different individuals dwelling in her space turned unwell, doubtlessly setting the stage for sustained person-to-person transmission.

Studies say the 11-year-old boy from Prey Veng province in southeastern Cambodia fell unwell on February 16, with a 102-degree fever, cough and sore throat. He died shortly after arriving at a hospital within the capital, Phnom Penh, on Related Press reported, citing the nation’s Ministry of Well being.

He Khmer instances — a neighborhood newspaper — has reported that 12 individuals dwelling across the deceased woman are suspected of getting been contaminated with the H5N1 fowl flu pressure and are awaiting laboratory confirmations.

Does this imply that we at the moment are seeing a human-to-human outbreak of fowl flu? Are we ready for one more pandemic?

What’s fowl flu?

Avian influenza is a viral respiratory illness that primarily impacts poultry and different fowl species, together with migratory waterfowl, some imported pets, and ostriches. Though uncommon, it could actually unfold to people and the primary identified human instances had been reported in 1997, when an outbreak of the H5N1 avian influenza A virus subtype in poultry in Hong Kong brought about extreme sickness in 18 individuals, a 3rd of which died.

In line with Richard Webby, an infectious illness investigator at St. Jude Youngsters’s Analysis Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, and director of the World Well being Group (WHO) Collaborating Middle for Research on the Ecology of Influenza in Animals and Birds, the virus It has been round for fairly a very long time. talking to CNNHe mentioned: “We noticed the great-great-grandfather species of the virus within the late Nineties in Southeast Asia, and have been following its evolution and alter ever since.”

Avian influenza is a viral respiratory illness that primarily impacts poultry and different birds. It’s thought-about one of many best identified threats to home birds. Reuters

The virus in birds spreads quickly as a result of farmers typically should cull uninfected birds together with contaminated ones to stop a wider outbreak. It’s thought-about one of many best identified threats to home birds.

How widespread is the latest outbreak of fowl flu?

At the moment, fowl flu has wreaked havoc around the globe, infecting birds and different animals as nicely. In the US alone, it has affected almost 60 million birds, together with wildlife, business poultry and yard flocks, as of January 2022, in line with the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention (CDC). . It’s due to this outbreak that egg costs have skyrocketed within the US, inflicting many individuals to surrender their day by day dose of protein.

As well as, avian influenza is liable for the dying of fifty million birds in 36 European international locations between October 2021 and September 2022.

It has additionally unfold to different mammals internationally map. In Alaska, instances have been reported amongst bears and foxes. The virus has additionally been present in a bobcat in California, a skunk in Colorado, a raccoon in Washington, opossums in Illinois and Iowa, a mountain lion and grizzly bear in Nebraska, seals in Maine, and even a bottlenose dolphin. in Florida.

Bird flu kills girl in Cambodia, others get sick Is this the start of a new pandemic?
A sick pelican sits subsequent to a useless one, on the banks of the Camaná River after Peruvian authorities registered the primary instances of fowl flu in November 2022, in Camaná, Peru. File picture/Reuters

Along with this, an outbreak of fowl flu was additionally reported at a mink farm in Spain in early January. Authorities in Peru mentioned three sea lions discovered useless in November examined optimistic for the virus.

Additionally learn: Why the unfold of fowl flu in animals is worrying

The UK Well being Safety Company mentioned a fox had just lately examined optimistic for H5N1. It joined eight foxes and otters that examined optimistic within the UK final yr.

The an infection in mammals additionally brought about the WHO to react. CEO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus informed a information convention on February 8 that the scenario wanted to be “intently monitored” due to its physiological similarities to people.

Are people secure from fowl flu?

Chook flu has affected people who’ve been in touch with contaminated birds. In line with specialists, fowl flu is sort of at all times unfold by direct contact with sick birds. Solely not often have human instances occurred through the quarter century that it’s identified to exist, with no sustained human-to-human transmission reported.

Globally, nearly 870 human infections and 457 deaths in 20 international locations have been reported to WHO. However the tempo has slowed, and there have been about 170 infections and 50 deaths up to now seven years.

Nevertheless, not often in people, the mortality charge is excessive if it does occur. In a digital press convention earlier this month, Dr. Sylvie Briand, director of the WHO’s division of epidemic and pandemic ailments, mentioned that when people are contaminated, they’re extra prone to have extreme illness. “It is a 30 to 50 % case fatality charge, however once more, these viruses aren’t very transmissible,” Dr. Briand mentioned.

Till now, public well being officers weren’t notably involved concerning the threat of person-to-person transmission. Nevertheless, the Cambodia incident is now elevating fears. As Rajiv Chowdhury, a senior epidemiologist and professor of world well being at Florida Worldwide College, mentioned Fortune“The Cambodian case raises considerations that we’re transferring from what has been a bird-to-human establishment to a human-to-human transmission situation.”

Bird flu kills girl in Cambodia, others get sick Is this the start of a new pandemic?
Villagers pose with indicators about threats from the H5N1 virus in Cambodia’s Prey Veng province after an eleven-year-old woman died of fowl flu, the nation’s first dying from the virus in years. AFP

Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and head of the COVID job power on the New England Institute for Advanced Techniques, tweeted: “I hope this wasn’t human-to-human, however now I am beginning to fear.”

This concern was additionally shared by the top of the WHO, Dr. Ghebreyesus, who suggested individuals to not contact useless or sick wild animals and for international locations to strengthen surveillance of environments the place individuals and animals work together.

Additionally learn: ‘About 28% probability the world will see a pandemic within the subsequent 10 years’: What specialists should say about future outbreaks

There may be concern that fowl flu may mutate and evolve. If it isn’t a menace to people at the moment, it may grow to be one. That is as a result of influenza viruses are extremely changeable. Like different viruses, H5N1, which at the moment takes the largest toll among the many fowl inhabitants, detects small mutations because it replicates inside a bunch; over time, that may give the virus sure advantages (though mutations are sometimes dangerous for the virus).

american web site Vox it additionally explains that influenza viruses may also bear a lot bigger and extra consequential adjustments by way of a course of known as redistribution. In explaining this phenomenon, Vox says that when two influenza viruses infect the identical cell in the identical host, they will trade total fragments of their genomes with one another, producing a wide range of Franken-flus.

Specialists say that if avian influenza mutates permitting person-to-person transmission, it may spell bother for the world. As Chowdhury mentioned within the Fortune report, “The potential affect might be important…might be the beginning of a ‘new international pandemic of influenza’.

The world must be on its guard in opposition to fowl flu. Right this moment it’s already a dietary, financial and ecological disaster. We want to ensure it does not grow to be a public well being one quickly.

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Is this the beginning of a new pandemic?

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