First human dies of new strain of bird flu never seen before in humans

The strain has never been seen before in humans, officials said
-Credit: (Image: Tim Graham/Getty Images)

A new strain of bird flu has killed a man in Mexico.

The patient had been rushed to hospital in Mexico City with a strain of bird flu never seen before in humans known as H5N2, the WHO said in a statement. The strain has largely gone under the radar and, as reported by the Mirror, the outbreak has raised questions about how much damage it could cause.

The WHO explained in a report about the situation that they were notified of a human infection on May 23. It was related to a resident of Mexico aged 59 who had no history of exposure to poultry or other animals. He also had several other underlying medical conditions.

He had already been bedridden for three weeks prior to the onset of acute symptoms of avian flu. He stated on April 17 that he experienced "fever, shortness of breath, diarrhoea, nausea and general malaise". He died on April 24 due to complications from the condition.

The WHO said that it carried out an epidemiological investigation into the 17 people who came into close contact with the deceased. Only one of them reported having a runny nose.

It comes shortly after Australia marked its first recorded human case of a virulent strain of bird flu in a child who fell sick after returning from overseas.

The child contracted the H5N1 strain of the disease, which has been spreading globally and causing widespread deaths among birds, upon returning to the Australian state of Victoria. The youngster reportedly suffered a “severe infection” after returning from India in March, but has since made a full recovery, Victoria's chief health officer confirmed on Wednesday.

“This is the first human case of H5N1 avian influenza in Australia,” Dr Clare Looker said. “The avian influenza virus was detected through further testing of positive influenza samples that takes place to detect novel or concerning flu virus strains, as part of Victoria's enhanced surveillance system.

“Contact tracing has not identified any further cases of avian influenza connected to this case," she added. Avian influenza does not easily spread between humans so the chances of additional cases in people was low, Dr Looker said.

On the same day, agricultural authorities revealed a different strain of bird flu had been detected in another part of Victoria at an egg farm. Authorities were alerted after a number of poultry deaths at the farm near Meredith, about 40km northwest of Geelong. Agriculture Victoria has ordered urgent testing after avian influenza was detected at the site.

That outbreak likely involved the H7N7 strain, not the highly pathogenic H5N1 variant, Chief Veterinary Officer Graeme Cooke said. “There is a type of virus which is causing great concern in the USA and other parts of the world and has behaved unusually in that it has infected dairy cattle and some other marine mammals,' Dr Cooke told the ABC's Country Hour.

“This is not the strain that we're dealing with. This is a strain that's occurred in Australia before. It's likely not new.” H7N7 is the most common type of bird flu in Australia and a H7 strain was one of those in the last bird flu outbreak in the country in 2020 which affected a third of egg farms in Victoria.

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