Global concerns: bird flu outbreaks in 2024

Avian influenza, commonly known as bird flu, has raised significant alarm among public health officials worldwide due to unprecedented occurrences and implications for human health.

United States: In a surprising development, a severe variant of the H5N1 strain has infected dairy cows across 12 states, marking its first known transmission to bovine species. Four dairy workers have also tested positive, experiencing mild symptoms like conjunctivitis. The virus detected in cows matches the H5N1 strain affecting wild birds and poultry.

Mexico: Mexico reported its first cases of H5N2 avian influenza in humans, tragically resulting in a fatality. The World Health Organization (WHO) clarified that the individual’s death was due to chronic illness rather than the virus, despite no known animal exposure.

Australia: A child in Australia contracted H5N1 bird flu after traveling to Kolkata, India. The strain belongs to a subtype circulating in Southeast Asia and has been detected in poultry and sporadic human cases.

India: In West Bengal, a four-year-old child tested positive for H9N2 bird flu, the second such case in India following a 2019 incident. While H9N2 typically causes mild illness, sporadic human infections remain a concern given its prevalence in poultry.

Vietnam: Vietnam reported a fatal case of H5N1 in a 21-year-old student with no underlying health issues, linked to exposure from hunting wild birds. Additionally, an outbreak of H9N2 occurred in a 37-year-old man.

Cambodia: Neighboring Cambodia confirmed five human cases of H5N1 by mid-June, highlighting regional challenges in controlling avian influenza.

China: China faced multiple strains this year, including H5N6, H9N2, and H10N3, with two fatalities from H5N6 in Fujian province. Cases were linked to backyard poultry exposure, underscoring the ongoing risks.

Germany: A rare outbreak of highly pathogenic H7N5 bird flu was reported on a farm near the German-Dutch border, marking the first such incident on record according to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

The global spread of various bird flu strains underscores the potential for mutation and human-to-human transmission, posing a potential pandemic threat. While the current risk to public health remains low according to WHO assessments, ongoing vigilance and coordinated international efforts are crucial to mitigating further spread and safeguarding human health globally.