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Resident in Mexico dies from bird flu never seen in humans, WHO confirms

Bird Flu
Posted at 4:07 PM, Jun 06, 2024

(WXYZ) — The World Health Organization confirmed that a resident in Mexico has died from a strain of bird flu never before identified in humans. The 59-year-old man reportedly had underlying health conditions.  

The bird flu strain in this case, is H5N2. It’s the first laboratory-confirmed human case of this subtype. Now, the patient was hospitalized at the National Institute of Respiratory Diseases in Mexico City on April 24. His symptoms included a fever, diarrhea, nausea, and shortness of breath. Sadly, he died the same day from complications related to the bird flu.

According to Mexico's health ministry, the patient had multiple underlying health issues, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and chronic kidney failure. He had also been bedridden for three weeks prior, so was most likely in a weakened state before getting infected. Not to mention, anyone with these preexisting conditions is at high risk for severe illness, even from our usual seasonal flu strains.

Now, how did this man in Mexico contract H5N2? That we don’t know. The World Health Organization said the patient had no history of poultry or animal exposure despite three poultry outbreaks of H5N2 in nearby parts of Mexico. Flu viruses usually circulate among birds but can occasionally infect other species. Humans can contract these viruses through direct contact with infected animals or exposure to contaminated environments.

So far, there is no evidence of person-to-person spread, according to Mexico’s health ministry. Twelve additional people living near the man’s home were tested, seven of them had symptoms. However, nose and throat samples from all 12 tested negative. Results from blood tests are still pending. Health authorities are looking for possible antibodies that would indicate a past infection.

As for any connection to the dairy cow outbreaks here in the US, there is none. The strain that infected the three farmworkers was H5N1. Since 1996, there have been about 900 human cases of H5N1 reported worldwide, and roughly half of them died. That’s because bird flu infections can vary widely in severity, ranging from no symptoms or mild illness to severe disease that can lead to death.

While the risk to the general public from H5N2 is considered low, scientists are closely monitoring the virus, looking for signs of it adapting to spread more easily among people.

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