We’re inching closer to the possibility of a new pandemic that may be worse than Covid-19…

Ben M is a Slugger reader from Dublin…

Bird Flu is so often mentioned in the news many people probably tune out. If you’re one of those you may have missed some recent developments. H5N1, the strain that’s been spreading among wild bird and mammal populations around the world for the past two years, has now spread to cows in North America. It’s now been found in cows in 34 US states. This is concerning because it increases the risk of it mutating to a human-to-human transmissible form.

There’s some good news. mRNA vaccines are likely to give effective protection to most people. However they can’t be developed before the virus mutates, and we would need several months of global lockdown before they are made and distributed. The second piece of good news is that if the virus mutates to spread among humans, a relatively harmless variant may do so; one with a low mortality rate or poor ability to spread.

The bad news is that out of 900 people recorded, just over 50% of humans who’ve picked this virus up from other animals have died so far. Although the cows in America are carrying the virus they don’t seem to become sick. Other mammals are not so fortunate. Seals, cats, and minks are all animals that have experienced very high mortality rates with H5N1.

If the virus spreads to US swine herds, it’s another step closer to the possibility of a global pandemic. Of all animals, pigs are especially likely to develop a mutated form of the virus that spreads to humans and they have been a common source of influenza viruses jumping to humans in the past.

The transcript of this interview is informative reading –

https://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode/how-big-a-threat-is-bird-flu/

As is this on the riks from pigs.

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2024/05/bird-flu-h5n1-cows-pigs/678407/

 


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