First human death from bird flu confirmed in Mexico

The first human bird flu-related death has been reported in Mexico City, though the World Health Organization maintains human risk is low - Photo by UnSplash +

The World Health Organization says the strain hasn’t been previously seen in humans

The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed that the first human has died as a result of the ongoing bird flu

The agency explained that the 59-year-old man from Mexico City had multiple underlying conditions, but the strain of bird flu he contracted hasn’t yet been detected in humans.

The strain that has been affecting livestock and birds is H5N1, whereas this patient was infected with H5N2. 

Despite this case, the WHO maintains that humans still don’t have much to worry about when it comes to bird flu. 

“Based on the available information, WHO assesses the current risk to the general population posed by this virus to be low,” the organization said in a statement. “If needed, the risk assessment will be reviewed should further epidemiological or virological information, including information on A(H5N2) viruses detected in local animal populations, becomes available.” 

More details on the case

The patient involved in the case had no previous experience or contact with an infected animal prior to becoming infected with H5N2. However, H5N2 had been detected in animals throughout Mexico prior to infection. 

The WHO explained that the patient had been bedridden for three weeks prior to the bird flu diagnosis. He had developed shortness of breath, diarrhea, nausea, fever, and general malaise, which is what prompted his hospitalization. 

It’s also important to note that the case didn’t spread throughout the hospital beyond the one infected patient.  

What happens next?

While it remains unclear how the patient contracted the virus, this case marks the first human case of H5N2 both globally and in Mexico. Health authorities in Mexico are still investigating the case to determine its origins. 

The WHO encourages people to maintain the same precautions prior to this most recent death: avoid farms, avoid contact with animals, avoid contact with surfaces that may have been contaminated with animal feces, etc. 

“This case does not change the current WHO recommendations on public health measures and surveillance of influenza,” the agency said.

“Due to the constantly evolving nature of influenza viruses, WHO continues to stress the importance of global surveillance to detect and monitor virological, epidemiological, and clinical changes associated with emerging or circulating influenza viruses that may affect human and animal health and timely virus-sharing for risk assessment.” 

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