‘Mutated’ bird flu pandemic ‘could wipe out 50% of humans’, experts warn2 min read
Medical experts fear the current outbreak of bird flu in the UK could mutate and become even more harmful to humans because it has now spread to other animals.
The rise of bird flu, or the H5N1 virus, in the UK and across the world has sparked concern among top experts that the deadly pathogen is now one step closer to spreading in humans.
Cases of the virus have been reported in foxes, otters and mink.
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On top of this, the Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme discovered that four harbour seals found in Scotland had the virus as well, reports the Mail.
The World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) says the non-avian animals could act as “mixing vessels” for different influenza viruses.
This could potentially unleash a new variant that could be “more harmful” to humans, the organisation said: “The current situation highlights the risk that H5N1 avian influenza may become better adapted to mammals, and spill over to humans and other animals.”
The WOAH added studies were ongoing into how the virus is spreading between mammals.
Publicly available maps from the UK’s Animal Health and Plant Agency (APHA), a government agency that tracks and monitors cases of bird flu across the UK, shows that England is the country in the UK that has the most bird flu surveillance zones, which are only put in place when active cases are found.
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The map also shows that the east of England is the area with the highest number of surveillance zones.
While the H5N1 virus has only affected 900 people since it was first detected in 1997, 50% of people who contract it die.
So far, only one Brit has been infected with H5N1 since the outbreak took off in October 2021.
Alan Gosling, a retired engineer in Devon, caught the virus in early 2022 after his ducks, some of which lived inside his home, became infected. No one else is known to have caught the virus.
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