Urgent health warning issued as expert warns new bird flu symptom is ‘dangerous’ sign

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun8,2024

A leading virologist has issued an urgent health warning as he noted new bird flu symptoms indicate multiplying infections could lead to a “dangerous” outbreak.

Federal health officials last week confirmed the third human case of H5N1 after a farmworker in Michigan started experiencing respiratory symptoms.

The development marked a concerning departure from the previous two confirmed cases as the infected individual reported experiencing a cough, sore throat and watery eyes – symptoms that would increase the likelihood of transmission to other humans.

Virologist Dr Rick Bright warned the latest case of H5N1 showed that the virus has now reached a “dangerous inflection point”, and highlighted health officials’s failure to contain the virus earlier on.

Writing in The New York Times, the expert said: “The emergence of respiratory symptoms is disconcerting because it indicates a potential shift in how the virus affects humans. Coughing can spread viruses more easily than eye irritation can.

“New symptoms should be expected as the virus continues to spread and adapt to humans.

“Yet our response to this looming danger has been woefully inadequate, particularly in the area of testing.”

Bird flu has already made its way across 69 cow herds in nine US states and the three confirmed human cases were all detected among farm workers with direct contact with infected cows and milk.

He questioned health officials for their failure to use serology testing, which detects traces of antibodies in the blood, to both diagnose new bird flu cases and assess how the virus is spreading.

Dr Bright warned undetected cases of H5N1 pose a great risk to the community, especially among farmers where the three known cases were first reported.

He added: “Moreover, failing to detect cases undermines the ability to have targeted public health interventions.

“If we don’t know the full extent of the outbreak, we can’t effectively allocate resources such as vaccines and antiviral treatments to those who need them most.”

The virologist called for the creation of a testing system similar to that employed during the coronavirus pandemic to inform communities about the risks of bird flu and to test individuals more likely to be infected.

Dr Bright said: “This is why we need a robust national testing strategy, coordinated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that includes both diagnostic and serology testing.

“This should be coupled with outreach efforts from state and local health departments to ensure that farmworkers have access to testing and feel safe using it.

“This means providing clear information in multiple languages, ensuring that testing is free and accessible, and offering support for those who test positive, such as paid sick leave and medical care.”

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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