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Experts Warn Pandemic '100 Times Worse Than COVID' Already Circulating in United States

Pandemic Watch: Assessing the Risk of Bird Flu
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Cattle herds in four states have been infected with the bird flu, experts say.

Apr. 8 2024, Published 1:02 p.m. ET

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Experts are sounding the alarm about a potential bird flu pandemic that could surpass the impact of COVID-19, following the discovery of a rare human case in Texas.

The H5N1 avian flu, which emerged with a new strain in 2020, has swiftly spread across wild bird populations in all states, as well as in commercial poultry and backyard flocks.

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Alarmingly, it has crossed into mammals, infecting cattle herds across four states, with a dairy worker in Texas recently confirmed as a case, the New York Post reported.

Dr. Suresh Kuchipudi, a prominent bird flu researcher, emphasized the long-standing threat posed by the H5N1 virus, stating it has been a top concern for years. He highlighted its ability to infect various species, including humans, making it a global pandemic threat.

John Fulton, a pharmaceutical consultant, echoed these concerns, suggesting the potential severity of the virus, which, if it mutates and maintains its high fatality rate, could be "100 times worse than COVID."

The H5N1 virus has historically exhibited a high fatality rate, with around 52% of reported human cases resulting in death since 2003, as per the World Health Organization. In comparison, COVID-19 currently has a significantly lower fatality rate, although it was much higher at the onset of the pandemic.

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Symptoms of bird flu resemble those of other flu strains, with potential severe complications such as pneumonia.

While the infected dairy worker in Texas experienced mild symptoms, health authorities stress the seriousness of the situation.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) emphasized the need for isolation and treatment with antiviral drugs. Despite assurances that the risk to the general public is low, the CDC remains vigilant, particularly as the virus's presence in cattle raises concerns about mutation and potential human transmission.

The European Food Safety Authority warned of the possibility of large-scale transmission if the virus gains efficient human-to-human transmission capabilities.

In response, the U.S. is already testing vaccine components, with promising candidates identified to combat H5N1. The Biden administration has affirmed its commitment to public health and safety, prioritizing preventive measures and monitoring the evolving threat.


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