Avian flu found in Mammals raise concerns in US states; all you need to know - Hindustan Times
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Avian flu cases in Mammals raise concerns in US states as scientists warn against ‘high-likely’ spread to humans

Mar 10, 2024 06:48 PM IST

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) confirmed that Washington, Kentucky and Montana have reported bird flu cases in mammals this year.

The US officials have warned citizens about the risk of contracting avian flu, also known as H5N1, that is spreading to marine mammals.

In the US, avian flu has been common among wild birds, particularly poultry, with over 82 million animals affected in 48 states.(AP)
In the US, avian flu has been common among wild birds, particularly poultry, with over 82 million animals affected in 48 states.(AP)

In a release, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) confirmed that Washington, Kentucky and Montana have reported bird flu cases in mammals this year. While Kentucky found the virus in a raccoon, Washington and Montana discovered it in three striped skunks and a mountain lion, respectively.

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The virus can cause illness, including severe disease and even death in some instances, it said.

Also Read: What is Avian flu that's wreaking havoc in California? Symptoms and treatment in humans and pets

Avian flu in US

For decades, the virus has been common among wild birds, particularly poultry, with over 82 million animals affected in 48 states.

Now that it has expanded to mammals, people are worried about contracting the virus, despite the fact that the danger is currently low.

Speaking to CBS News, Dr. Chris Walzer, who works for the Wildlife Conservation Society, said: “I think it’s quite likely. This avian influenza outbreak has been one of the largest threats to wildlife globally. We just can’t wait for it to hit human populations.”

He advocated for better disease tracking to safeguard humans from the virus, which is accumulating "new traits that could create a problem for us humans."

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said those who works at poultry farms should take precautions as they may be at higher risk of contracting avian flu.

Also Read: Avian flu wreaks havoc in California, poultry industry takes an existential hit

What does the latest study say?

Since 2022, H5N1 has claimed over 65,000 wild birds and 50,000 animals in Chile, Peru and Argentina. Following the outbreak of the virus, prices of eggs in the US reached record-high as California's poultry sector suffered a major setback.

H5N1, which has usually been linked with bird populations, has spread to marine animals. The virus has been found in marine species along the Atlantic coast of South America, raising fears about its potential spread to people.

In the latest study, scientists have discovered a virus in marine species along the Atlantic coast of South America, raising fears about its potential spread to people.

They examined brain samples from dead sea lions in an impacted rookery in Argentina. Shockingly, all samples, including sea lions, fur seals, and terns, tested positive for the virus.

“This confirms that while the virus may have adapted to marine mammals, it still has the ability to infect birds,” said Agustina Rimondi, a virologist from the National Institute of Agricultural Technology in Argentina, according to the Wildlife Society.

“It is a multi-species outbreak," the virologist added.

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