BIRD FLU | Europe calls for precautions in view of the increase in cases of bird flu of the H5N1 variant

BIRD FLU | Europe calls for precautions in view of the increase in cases of bird flu of the H5N1 variant
BIRD FLU | Europe calls for precautions in view of the increase in cases of bird flu of the H5N1 variant

The bird flu The number of infections is constantly increasing. A few months ago, the pathogen variant appeared on US cow farms, specifically on 130 farms in 12 states. This has led American and Japanese scientists to investigate how this virus can affect other mammals and its ability to transmit. This week, a new study was published in Nature demonstrated the potential of H5N1 avian influenza to be transmitted between mammals. In light of this scenario, the European Union has called for precautions to be taken.

He European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control The European Commission (ECDC) has recommended increased surveillance due to cases of avian influenza, although it has pointed out that the viruses circulate at low levels among wild bird populations throughout the European Union and the European Economic Area. In this regard, the ECDC has recalled that, in the United States, transmission of avian influenza has recently been observed. highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (H5N1) in dairy cattle and four cases have been reported among farmworkers exposed to cattle since April 2024.

“While we closely monitor the current situation of avian influenza, both in the EU and around the world, There is reason for greater awareness, but not for greater concern. ECDC remains committed to supporting the measures taken by national authorities in EU Member States. This threat to human health should not be underestimated and it is important that we remain vigilant and proactive in our joint work,” said ECDC Director Pamela Rendi-Wagner. No human infections with the avian influenza virus (H5N1) have been reported in the EU so far.

What does the new study say?

The research, led by a team of scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has focused in analyzing a virus sample isolated from one of the dairy cows infected with bird flu on a farm in New Mexico (USA). Tests showed that the virus carried by these animals is capable of replicating, infecting and causing disease in mammals of other species such as mice and ferrets. From there, through laboratory experiments, it was also proven that infected animals were capable of transmitting the virus to their peers and their offspring through contact with their mammary glands and by ingesting their milk. On the contrary, according to the experiments carried out to date, it seems unlikely that these pathogens can be transmitted through the air as was the case, for example, with the coronavirus responsible for Covid-19.

The research also points to a seemingly minor fact, but beyond technicalities, it is something of vital importance. The analysis of the sample obtained in the outbreak of avian flu in a cattle farm shows that The virus has acquired previously unprecedented characteristics which could, in turn, facilitate the transmission of this pathogen between mammals and, eventually, even between humans. According to the team led by Yoshihiro Kawaoka, the H5N1 virus discovered in cattle shows a set of characteristics that allow it to adhere to the surface of cells in both birds and humans and, from there, cause a severe infection. This is something that did not usually occur in the ‘older’ versions of the virus, so until now it was believed that this pathogen did not have an easy time ‘jumping’ to mammals. The latest analyses suggest that this could have changed.

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