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Bird Flu: No Evidence Of Human-to-Human Transmission, WHO Clarifies

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has clarified that there is no evidence that the H5NI avian influenza virus can adapt to allow human-to-human transmission.

The WHO noted that so far, only one human case has been reported in the United States since the bird flu outbreak among the millions of dairy cattle across the country.

At least 220 people are being monitored and at least 30 have been tested for the flu

“However, many more people have been exposed to infected animals, and it is important that all those exposed are tested or monitored and receive care if needed,” the Director-General of WHO, Tedros Ghebreyesus said at a news conference on Wednesday.

“So far, the virus does not show signs of having adapted to spread among humans, but more surveillance is needed,” he urged.

The WHO chief also said that though the virus has been detected in raw milk in the US, “preliminary tests show that pasteurisation kills the virus.”

“WHO’s standing advice to all countries is that people should consume pasteurised milk,” he highlighted.

Pasteurisation is a heat treatment process for milk that reduces the number of possible pathogenic microorganisms to levels at which they do not represent a significant health hazard. It also extends the usable life of milk.

Ghebreyesus also noted that based on the available information, WHO continues to assess the public health risk posed by H5N1 avian influenza as low-to-moderate for people exposed to infected animals.

He added that the agency has a system for monitoring influenza globally through a network of centres in 130 countries, seven collaborating centres and 12 reference laboratories with the capacities and biosafety requirements to deal with H5 viruses.

“We also have the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework to support the rapid development and equitable distribution of vaccines in case of an influenza pandemic,” he said.

In recent years, H5N1 has spread widely among wild birds, poultry, land and marine mammals, and now among dairy cattle.

Since 2021, there has been 28 reported cases in humans, although no human-to-human transmission has been documented.

The outbreak in the United States has so far infected 36 dairy herds in nine states.