New bird flu pandemic could be ‘100 times worse than COVID’

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Scientists warn: Bird flu pandemic poses catastrophic threat.

NEW YORK, April 6: Experts have issued a stark warning of a potential bird flu pandemic, cautioning that it could be “100 times worse than COVID” after a rare human case was discovered in Texas. The H5N1 avian flu, which has been rapidly spreading since the detection of a new strain in 2020, has now extended its reach to mammals, with infected cattle herds identified across four states.

The concern was raised in a recent panel discussion by Dr. Suresh Kuchipudi, a prominent bird flu researcher, who highlighted the virus’s ability to infect a wide range of mammalian hosts, including humans. John Fulton, a pharmaceutical industry consultant, echoed these concerns, emphasizing the potentially devastating consequences if the virus mutates and maintains its high fatality rate.

With a fatality rate of around 52% among humans infected with H5N1 since 2003, compared to COVID’s current fatality rate of less than 0.1%, the threat posed by the bird flu is significant. Symptoms of the virus are similar to those of other flu strains, including cough, body aches, and fever, with severe cases potentially leading to life-threatening pneumonia.

The recent case of a dairy worker in Texas contracting the virus has prompted heightened vigilance from health authorities. The worker exhibited mild symptoms, including eye redness consistent with conjunctivitis, and is being treated with antiviral medication. While the risk to the general public is currently deemed low, the discovery of the virus in cattle raises concerns about potential mutations that could facilitate human-to-human transmission.

Efforts are underway to mitigate the threat, with the US conducting tests on vaccine components tailored to combat H5N1. The White House has assured the public that the administration is closely monitoring the situation, prioritizing the health and safety of communities.

However, experts caution that the virus’s ability to spread efficiently among humans, if acquired, could lead to large-scale transmission due to the lack of immune defenses against H5 viruses. As such, continued surveillance and preparedness measures remain crucial in the face of this looming threat.

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