Bird Flu Scare: Second US Human Infection Reported In Texas; Experts Term It '100 Times Worse Than Covid' | Explained

Bird Flu Scare: In general, humans are not highly susceptible to the infection caused by the Bird Flu (Type A H5N1) virus. However, the possibility of human transmission can't be completely ruled out as a few cases of human infections have already occurred around the world.

Bird Flu test being performed on chicken | Photo: AP

Amid an alarm raised by scientists over the bird flu outbreak in the United States, a person in Texas has tested positive for bird flu, making it the second US human case of the virus that, in recent weeks, has caused infections in herds of dairy cows.

Taking cognisance of the heightened fear amongst people, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised everyone to stay away from exposure to sick or dead animals including wild birds, poultry and cattle. The top health watchdog of the United States also urged people to not eat uncooked or undercooked food products related to the dair cows such as unpasteurized milk and cheeses.

About the human case in Texas

As per reports, the isolated Texas patient is currently under medical attention and is being treated with an antiviral drug.

It has been reported that the patient had experienced eye redness after coming into contact with sick cows. The risk to the general public is low, experts said, but people should take precautions when around ill animals.

The viral infection generally don't spread to humans. However, the possibility can't be completely ruled out as a few cases of human infections have already occurred around the world.

Back in 2022, the first-ever human case of H5N1 bird flu in the US occurred in Colorado. The patient reportedly became ill after direct exposure to poultry presumed to be infected. That person experienced fatigue for a few days and made a full recovery.

Experts' take on Bird Flu

In light of the current situation, scientists have raised alarm in the US. As per a report by UK-based tabloid Daily Mail, experts have cited bird flu as '100 times worse than the Covid pandemic' as it could lead to a high fatality rate.

According to the report, Dr Suresh Kuchipudi, bird flu researcher in Pittsburgh told, "We are not really talking about a virus that is yet to make a jump, we are talking about a virus that is globally present, already infecting a range of mammals and is circulating… It is high time that we are prepared".

Furthermore, another expert, John Fulton said, "This appears to be 100 times worse than Covid, or it could be if it mutates and maintains its high case fatality rate. Once it’s mutated to infect humans, we can only hope that the [fatality rate] drops".

About Bird Flu virus

The bird flu virus, also known as Type A H5N1, was first identified in 1959. Since 2020, a surge has been observed in spreading of the virus among more animal species including dogs and cats in several countries.

What are the symptoms of Bird Flu?

The symptoms of bird flu are strikingly similar to those of any other flu, including cough, body aches, and fever.

In fact, some people may develop severe, life-threatening pneumonia as well.

How risky is the infection?

Going by several reports, avian influenza seriously affects those who have close contact with wild birds or poultry. Scientists said that currently the H5N1 is not capable of spreading easily among humans.

However, it has always been advised to stay alert for changes that could facilitate human spread and spark a pandemic.

Any vaccine available for humans?

The United States holds a stockpile of vaccines to prevent infections caused by the strain currently circulating. Moreover, antivirals are also available to treat human infections.

Besides the vaccines, the CDC also has samples or "seed" strains of the virus that the vaccine manufacturers could utilise to produce more effective vaccines closely matching to the circulating virus.